Detroit Tigers starter Ty Madden slides into perfect spot in the 2021 MLB draft

Detroit Free Press

Ty Madden didn’t understand why he was sliding in the 2021 MLB draft.

Over the past couple days, the Texas right-hander hadn’t been in a “crazy amount” of contact with theDetroit Tigers — because the Tigers, like Madden, assumed he would be a top-15 pick.

But in the end, Madden’s fall became the Tigers’ gain.

General manager Al Avila picked Madden on Sunday night with the No. 32 overall pick (Competitive Balance Round A) in the draft.

“To be honest with you, we were surprised he fell that far,” Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis said Sunday. “That was a great get there. … A competitor, great arm, good slider, shows a good change-up too, and just kind of a workhorse guy on the mound with a great competitive edge to him.”

The Tigers selected Heritage Hall High School right-hander Jackson Jobe at No. 3 overall. If the Tigers don’t pay Jobe the full MLB-determined value of the No. 3 pick ($7,221,200), the door opens to offer Madden more than the slot value ($2,257,300) at No. 32.

“I don’t really know the finances,” Madden said Monday. “It wasn’t a money issue. It just happened how it happened. I’m ready to get after it. … We really can’t explain it. I don’t know.”

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Avila ended the first day of the draft with two of the best four pitchers available and a pair of top-10 talents, according to MLB Pipeline. Entering Sunday, Jobe was ranked No. 7 among the potential draftees and Madden came in at No. 9. (Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker were considered the Nos. 2 and 6 players on the board, respectively. Leiter went to the Texas Rangers at No. 2 overall, and Rocker was picked at No. 10 by the New York Mets.)

The Tigers became the first team since the Houston Astros in 2015 (Alex Bregman, Daz Cameron and Kyle Tucker) to select two or more of the top-10 draft prospects in the same year.

“I think it’s a perfect organization for me,” Madden said. “They have a great reputation of developing college pitchers, and I think it’s a perfect spot.”

As a junior at Texas, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Madden posted a 2.45 ERA, 44 walks and 137 strikeouts in 113⅔ innings over 18 starts this season and was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year. Opponents had a .188 batting average against him.

Madden logged a 2.59 ERA across 181 innings (37 games, 30 starts), with 72 walks and 200 strikeouts, in his three-year college career. He was previously selected in the 34th round of the 2018 draft by the Kansas City Royals — out of Cypress Ranch High School in Texas — but decided to take the college route.

“I think in college, seven days (between starts) is almost too long,” Madden said. “Once a week seems like an eternity. This is what I love to do, so I’m ready to be able to do it more times in a year. I’m going to put my body in a great position to stay healthy and give my best every start.”

Entering pro ball, Madden is expected to consistently sit at 95 mph with his four-seam fastball and reach 99 mph. The 21-year-old’s fastball and slider are graded as advanced pitches, followed by his change-up. His curveball remains a project.

Madden has above-average control of his pitches, which should give the Tigers plenty to work with. He finished his 2021 season with 3.5 walks per nine innings and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

“I got a lot of confidence in my slider right now,” Madden said. “I think my change-up started to really develop toward the end of the year, when I started using it more. I look forward to growing both of those and adding the curveball.”

Evaluating Ty Madden’s fastball

One of the biggest questions about Madden is his four-seam fastball. Projected at the fourth-best pitcher in the 2021 draft without a significant injury in his past, there must have been a reason teams weren’t willing to pay up for Madden before the Tigers got to him with the 32nd pick.

From Baseball America, executive editor J.J. Cooper explained the situation: “Madden’s assets are not as good a fit with what teams are looking for in 2021. His velocity is excellent, but it doesn’t play nearly as well up in the strike zone as it does when he drives it down in the zone.”

Madden gave his assessment: “I just think it plays with my arm slot and 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, and I’m looking forward to using that more. … It doesn’t really run. I’m just so over-the-top (with my delivery) that it’s pretty downhill. At the last second, it kind of has a little late life to it.”

According to Baseball America, Madden’s fastball in the bottom-third of the strike zone produced a .178 opponent batting average with one home run allowed. Hitters swung and missed at just 7% of these pitches, but 63% of the balls in play were ground balls. While Madden might not record a ton of whiffs with his fastball — that’s what his slider is for — he knows how to generate weak contact for outs.

Using his fastball in the top-third of the strike zone, Madden allowed six of his seven home runs and opponents had a .288 batting average. He got swings and misses with 13% of his fastballs in this part of the zone.

“I’m open to it,” Madden said about adding a two-seam fastball. “I threw some sinkers in the beginning of my Texas career, and I’m open to throwing two-seams. We’ll see what they want to do with me and what the next steps are in my development.

“I switched to four-seams because (my catchers and hitters in the Cape Cod League in 2019) said at the bottom of the zone it looked like a ball out of my hand, because of how downhill I am, and then it kind of catches at the last second. I had really good success with that, when I was switching from two-seam to four-seam, and my velocity increased as I got stronger. It’s something I just felt comfortable with.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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