In a buzzer-beater transaction that went down 42 seconds before Wednesday’s trade deadline closed the curtain on further deals, the Tigers sent right fielder Nicholas Castellanos to the Chicago Cubs. In return, the Cubs sent Detroit two pitching prospects, righties Paul Richan and Alex Lange.
Let’s take a look at the pair and see what kind of talent the Tigers added.
RHP Paul Richan
The rare well-regarded touch-and-feel righthander, Richan has the potential to succeed as a back-end starter. There isn’t anything special about most of his arsenal, including his average fastball. It sits in the low 90s and tops out at 93 miles per hour, but it doesn’t have especially exciting life or promise of improvement. The heater did take a step forward over the offseason, however, so it’s not impossible that he continues to improve his fastball. However, evaluators see Richan’s development in that regard as fairly well topped out.
Sometimes pitchers with middle-of-the-road fastballs walk a thin line, but scouts are willing to bet on Richan’s ability to pull it off thanks to his advanced feel for pitching. Richan does well utilizing his secondary pitches to keep batters off his hard stuff. Foremost is a slider that MLB Pipeline pegged as having above-average potential, but that appears to be in line with the “project to what you see” philosophy. Most other outlets call it average, although it does play above that grade once in a while.
A changeup and curveball round out his pitch mix — both also project to be average. All four pitches play well together, and above their individual grades in part because Richan sequences well and is comfortable changing speeds. He doesn’t shy away from going right at hitters. He’s confident in his stuff and fills the strike zone.
Scouts have routinely commended Richan’s command; it’s the reason that he can get away with his fringy stuff. That’s evidenced in his 69.6 percent strike rate and 1.74 walks per nine innings. He has done well for himself in High-A in 2019, working a 3.97 ERA and 3.52 FIP, and was gaining steam within the Cubs’ pipeline before the trade. Ultimately, the upside here is that of a back-of-the-rotation starter. Richan will probably go unheralded during his trek to the majors, but could yield decent dividends.
RHP Alex Lange
The former LSU star was a top draft prospect in 2017, but he came attached to quite a bit more risk than your average college ace. Even at his best, Lange’s fastball wasn’t especially overpowering, and it was graded as plus because of factors aside from velocity. His delivery includes a lot of deception, but it’s also particularly violent. His curveball has decent movement but isn’t paired with an especially remarkable spin rate.
It’s pretty obvious how things could go wrong here. They promptly did.
Since being drafted by the Cubs with the 30th overall pick, his stuff has backed up and his fastball lost some of its zip, leaving it a fringy offering. His deceptive delivery has led to questionable control and unacceptable walk rates. There’s still talent, but he doesn’t look like a first rounder anymore.
The Tigers took a flier on his pedigree, because the building blocks that made him into an attractive pitcher two years ago are still there. Buying low on that talent could turn out well, even if it is through a metamorphosis into an entirely different kind of pitcher than he was on draft day. MLB Pipeline notes that his changeup has improved thanks to reps at the pro level, and his fastball velocity is on the climb again. Lange has also added another breaking ball that moves more like a cutter or slider, which is another step in the right direction.
Tigers general manager Al Avila stated after the trade was made official that Lange will be serving in a relief role in the Tigers’ system. “He’s been starting,” said the Tigers’ general manager, “but we feel that he would fit better out of the bullpen.” That limits the righthander’s overall ceiling, but it will give him a chance to put a little more oomph behind his lagging fastball and allow his other stuff to tick up a bit too. Lange has a chance to become a setup man if everything comes back together for him.