The Angels used their fourth pick of the 2009 draft -- two picks after they’d taken Mike Trout -- on a pitcher from the University of Oklahoma who never had a college ERA under 6.00.
That’s how much room for growth they saw in Garrett Richards, who will make his major league debut tonight at Yankee Stadium. It also speaks to the approach of former scouting director Eddie Bane, who was fired by general manager Tony Reagins last fall, ostensibly because of the way he drafted.
Bane is a sucker for tools, in part because of his own experience as a pitcher. Bane was one of the most dominant college pitchers of all time at Arizona State in the early 1970s. A left-hander, he went 40-4 with a 1.64 ERA. He pitched 27 complete games, including 11 shutouts. He struck out 21 batters in one game.
The Minnesota Twins took him in the first round, with the No. 11 overall pick, and Bane made his big league debut at age 21. He would pitch parts of just three seasons in the majors and have a 4.66 ERA. When the Angels were negotiating with first-round pick Jered Weaver in 2004, Bane faxed his college stats to the offices of agent Scott Boras. Bane now scouts the major leagues for the Detroit Tigers.
So far, you’d have to say Bane’s instincts were sound on Richards. In four minor league seasons, the big right-hander’s ERA has never been as high as 4.00 and, after working with the Angels’ minor league pitching coaches -- most recently, Double-A Arkansas’ Brandon Emanuel and rover Kernan Ronan -- he has tamed his control issues.
Richards has struck out 100 batters this season and walked 40 in 141 innings. It doesn’t seem to have affected his raw stuff. When I caught up with Richards back in late May, he said he had touched 100 mph earlier this season. He typically works in the 93-95 mph range. He also has a slider, curveball and changeup that he may need to deploy against a patient, veteran and powerful Yankees lineup.
“I don’t really pay too much attention to velocity. I got it up around there in college,” Richards said. “I focus on keeping the ball down in the zone, mixing speeds and keeping guys off balance.”
It’s fair to say that, wherever he is tonight, Bane will be keeping track of how Richards does.