Ranked by ESPN as the No. 19 overall prospect in the draft, Madden becomes the first starting pitcher from Texas selected in the first round since Taylor Jungmann. The Longhorns hadn’t had any player selected that highly since reliever Cory Knebel was picked No. 39 in 2013.
Considering that Madden was ranked as highly as the top 10, his fall into the 30s past a number of starting pitchers, left handed and right handed, was a surprise. In other words, the Tigers got a tremendous value and there are a number of team that could end up regretting passing on the big power pitchers.
A Cypress Ranch product, Madden arrived at Texas as a top-60 player nationally, according to Perfect Game, after his desire to play on the Forty Acres resulted in a 34th-round selection by the Kansas City Royals in the 2018 recruiting class.
Madden started eight games among 14 appearances as a freshman, performing well with a 3.40 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. Opponents hit .247 against him.
In the pandemic-shortened season of 2020, Madden appeared ready to take the next step, moving into the weekend rotation full time, shutting out Rice through 6.0 innings and going the distance against Boise State while allowing one run on two hits. Madden finished the year with a 1.80 ERA.
Madden emerged as a bona fide ace as a redshirt sophomore, serving as the Friday starter and notching a 2.45 ERA with 137 strikeouts in 113.2 innings, earning Big 12 Pitcher of the Year honors in the process. Highlights included a career-high 14 strikeouts in a complete game shutout against Houston during which he allowed only two hits and 12 strikeouts through 6.0 innings in a win against Oklahoma State.
When Madden signed, assistant Sean Allen touted his three plus pitches and swing-and-miss changeup, but Madden’s slider emerged as his best secondary pitch during his three years on the Forty Acres. Meanwhile, his fastball reached 98 mph at times, in part thanks to strength gains as he added 10-15 pounds of muscle to measure in at 6’3 and 215 pounds — prototypical size for a power pitcher.
However, the changeup was never as effective as advertised as the crucial third pitch never developed for Madden at Texas.
Madden’s over-the-top delivery allows him to get good tilt on his fastball, but it’s otherwise not an especially lively pitch and opposing hitters were able to square it up at times in 2021, especially early in the game. An average spin rate and lack of arm side run or the type of carry that characterizes Mississippi State ace Will Bednar’s fastball present some concern projecting to the next level.
The slider does project as an above-average pitch at the next level as Madden’s high arm slot helps him get more depth on it than when he arrived at Texas. There’s enough finish to it that Madden can throw it up in the zone for a strike without having to worry about the pitch flattening out consistently.
To make it to the majors and succeed as a starter, Madden needs to develop that elusive third pitch, whether it’s his once-promising changeup or his curveball, which was a better pitch in 2020, but even in a worst-case scenario, the fastball-slider combination should allow Madden to compete for a role in the back end of the bullpen.
If the third pitch does come along, Madden has a chance to more than justify his selection by Detroit and status as the best starting pitching prospect to emerge from the Forty Acres in a decade.