In the weeks prior to the 2021 MLB amateur draft, University of Texas starting pitcher Ty Madden appeared to be one of the top five pitching prospects available in the whole draft. However, on MLB team boards he was slipping down all the way out of the first round as the draft approached in July. Eventually on draft day he went unselected, and the Detroit Tigers were happy to snatch him up with the 32nd overall pick.
If all goes as planned and the team is consistently successful moving forward, the 2021 draft will be the last one in which the Tigers had major advantages over most teams for a while. After picking first overall two of the previous three seasons, the club finally got the added bonus of a selection in the first competitive balance round. With three of the top 39 picks in hand, along with a big bonus pool, they needed to make it count in order to keep the prospect pipeline flowing as their final two blue chip prospects graduate to the majors this spring. In Ty Madden, they placed a bet on his health, with strong rewards waiting if they were correct.
At his best, the big right-hander featured an overpowering fastball-slider combination in college that had him looking very capable of handling big league hitters eventually. For much of the spring he was projected to be drafted just outside the top ten. The problem was that he didn’t have his best with enough consistency as the season unfolded. After a strong start, he looked a bit gassed late in his final season with the Longhorns. The Tigers will be hoping to build him up and tweak his stuff. If they can they might have one of the bigger wins of the draft here. We’re impressed enough with his potential to rank him fifth on the BYB top 30 this year.
Madden is a classic Texas-style power pitcher. The six-foot, three-inch, 205 pound right-hander was raised in Cypress, Texas, and starred for Cypress Ranch High School. After initially planning to attend Rice University, he switched to the Longhorns prior to his senior year. He was drafted in 2018 by the Kansas City Royals with a late round pick but was always headed to college.
Madden had plenty of notoriety when he started his college career as he was touching 98 mph prior to his freshman year. However, the season did not go well. His velocity dropped off a cliff and he was ultimately shut down with a shoulder injury. However, in 2020 the velocity looked to be back, and Madden showed off a better slider as well. Unfortunately the season was quickly cancelled, and other than good reports from practices later in the year, Madden hadn’t been able to make a lasting impression.
He finally got the chance in 2021. Madden struck out an impressive 137 hitters in 113.2 innings of work, posting a 2.45 ERA on the year. The high end fastball was back early in the year and he looked really overpowering, establishing himself pretty high on most draft boards. He just couldn’t quite sustain it. The results were still good overall, but he didn’t have his best stuff or control at times later in the season. The inconsistency, combined with a less than ideal fastball profile, appeared to make teams just a little overly shy in the first round, but that may ultimately prove a stroke of luck for the Tigers.
Madden has a lot going for him. He has a strong build and a repeatable delivery with solid extension to home plate. In terms of approach, he’s decidedly in the mold of an aggressive power pitcher, attacking hitters with good arm speed and a willingness to pitch inside. He already carries four quality offerings and carries his stuff deep into his starts. In particular, his changeup has improved over the past year, giving him three average or better offerings, and most forecasts predict above average command of the whole package in time.
Madden generally has an average fourseam fastball and sits 93-95 mph, but can reach back for more when he wants it and will top out in the high nineties. His high arm slot doesn’t produce the flat plane to the top of the zone that draws maximum whiffs, and the spine tilt required to get there is a concern as well. Madden appears to understand how to use his stuff and he’s more the type to pound the bottom of the zone, despite a somewhat straight fourseam fastball with some hop. This aspect may have contributed to him slipping some on draft day, as the profile isn’t ideal.
Still, teams may regret being scared off by one factor. He should be able to steal strikes at the bottom of the zone with it, and his ability to move the fastball around the zone should generate whiffs and weak contact, with an upgrade possible if he can ultimately hold his upper velocity band more consistently. The fastball just limits his ceiling somewhat, but he has plenty of other attributes that give him a solid shot to be a quality major league starter. There’s also the possibility that the Tigers new development staff could help him adjust his arm slot or find another way to optimize the fastball movement. With this big an arm and an atypical delivery, there should be options.
Post-draft, Madden spoke to David Laurila of FanGraphs about the fastball and had some interesting comments on how to best use it.
“It is a four-seam,” acknowledged Madden. “I think it plays with my arm slot and kind of the downhill angle I create — it plays really well at the bottom of the zone. We didn’t use the top of the zone a whole lot this year. I’m looking forward to using that more.”
Asked specifically about the movement profile, Madden explained that because his delivery is so over the top, his fastball is “pretty downhill and at the last second has late life to it.” He added that his heater doesn’t really get running action.
The weapon that ties Madden’s game together is a nasty mid-80’s slider that is really his bread and butter. He has some feel for varying the break on the pitch, and can spot it to either side of the zone. It’s not a high spin freakshow like Jackson Jobe’s slider, but despite more prototypical metrics, it’s a good out pitch and likely the one that carries him to the majors. Madden has also developed a solid changeup with good velocity separation and will mix in a fringy curveball as another change of pace.
Madden was on the young side for his draft class, and won’t turn 22 for a few more weeks, which was another nice feature from the Tigers’ perspective. There may be a little physical projection remaining. The hope is that the lost reps during the 2020 college season took a bit of a toll on him later in his 2021 season. If that was the case there could still be some real gains left to come in terms of his stuff. Otherwise it’s more a matter of building him up and seeing how far he can develop his command.
As we saw in the 2021 regular season, major league teams were extra careful with young arms. The same perceived risk was in play for college pitchers who didn’t throw too many innings in 2020 before the season was cancelled. Most of the 2021 draft class entered pro ball a little short of workload and experience by historical standards. In Madden’s case,the Tigers will be hoping there’s still plenty of development to come. Ideally, he can tune his stuff up a bit and develop enough command to top out as a good mid rotation starter. If not, the power stuff gives him a solid fallback plan as a late innings relief option.
Projected 2022 team: High-A West Michigan Whitecaps
An advanced college pitcher who has already had some sessions with the Tigers’ player development staff, Madden should be ready for the High-A level in 2022. With his experience and success in college, the goal should be to reach Double-A Erie and ideally establish himself there by season’s end. The Tigers may see it a little differently if they’ve still got a few things they’d like to focus on in terms of mechanics, but even if he starts out with the Lakeland Flying Tigers to get his feet wet, a promotion to the Whitecaps shouldn’t be long in coming. The Tigers got a lot of pitcher here, and with luck, Ty Madden is just getting started.