Ty Madden Is Texas' Latest Archetypal Righty. Can He Guide The Longhorns Back To Omaha?
All of them seemingly cut from the same cloth as strong, powerful pitchers from the Lone Star State with big fastballs and seemingly boundless upside.
Ty Madden is familiar with his home state’s tradition for producing big, powerful righthanders, pitchers who, well, look like him. Listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Madden has touched 100 mph with his fastball and this spring was averaging nearly 95. The native of Cypress, Texas, a suburb of Houston, headlines the Texas rotation and has helped the Longhorns emerge as College World Series contenders this season.
Madden, a third-year sophomore, fits the profile of a big Texas righthander to a burnt orange T.
Madden has been excellent for the Longhorns in 2021. Through the first 12 weeks of the season, going into Texas’ mid-May finals break, he was 6-2, with a 2.27 ERA, 89 strikeouts and 28 walks in 75.1 innings. He’s been remarkably consistent all season long, delivering quality starts in nine of his 12 appearances.
As a result, Madden is on track to be both an All-American and a first-round draft pick. Since righthander Taylor Jungmann accomplished both feats in 2011, the Longhorns have not produced a player drafted in the first round and had only one All-American, Kody Clemens in 2018.
While it’s been a decade since the Longhorns have had a pitcher like Madden, Texas coach David Pierce has been around several throughout his career. Pierce, now in his fifth season in Austin, previously was a longtime assistant coach under Wayne Graham at Rice, working with the Owls all-time great rotation of Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend.
Pierce said Madden’s presence at the front of the rotation reminds him of what Rice had at its peak.
“He’s a throwback kid,” Pierce said. “He doesn’t allow distractions to leak in, he’s so focused on his teammates. He leads by example. He’s one of the most dedicated pitchers I’ve been around, week to week, month
Madden’s dedication to his process plays a key role in his success, working in concert with his powerful fastball-slider combination and his work ethic. Together, they make him college baseball’s best pitching prospect in the 2021 draft class aside from Vanderbilt righthanders Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker.
Central to Madden’s process is a 24-hour rule he adopted last year at the advice of Huston Street. The former big leaguer and Texas great returned to school in 2020 to finish his degree and joined the coaching staff as a student assistant. He advised Madden to limit himself to one night of thinking about his start, good or bad.
Madden’s improved mental approach has helped him flourish. He’s also been helped by a jump in velocity he made over the last year. In the abbreviated 2020 season, his fastball touched 94 mph and sat 91-92. He had touched higher before, but his velocity was never consistently above the low 90s.
When the 2020 season stopped, Madden had all the time he needed to focus on working out. But when he returned home in the first few weeks of the shutdown, all the gyms were closed. So, he improvised. His father Brian owns a metal fabrication shop and built a weight rack and weights for their garage out of scrap metal. Madden worked out there until gyms began to reopen. As that happened, he moved his workouts to a gym owned by former big leaguer Kip Wells.
In addition to filling out his frame, Madden tweaked his mechanics to incorporate his lower half more and worked to improve his athleticism, to better repeat his delivery. The result of his hard work became apparent during fall ball, when Madden started lighting up radar guns consistently.
Not only is Madden throwing harder, but he holds his velocity and this season has been up to 98 mph in the ninth inning. That kind of velocity, combined with his control and the downhill angle he throws from makes it difficult for opposing hitters.
Madden pairs his fastball with a hard slider that also has plus potential. He developed that pitch two years ago while he was pitching for Chatham in the Cape Cod League. Prior to that summer, Madden had been caught between a curveball and a slider. Chatham pitching coach Dennis Cook helped him to better visualize the pitch by telling him to throw more of a cutter.
“I threw what I thought was a cutter for a week,” Madden said. “That was a true slider.”
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Now, Madden has enough feel for his breaking ball to manipulate it to act more like that true slider, throwing it in the upper 80s, or add more depth to the pitch, making it more of a power breaking ball. Madden also throws a changeup, but he hasn’t needed to use it much in college. Improving it will be the next stage of his development in professional baseball.
With that fastball-slider combination, Madden already has more than most hitters can handle. Texas catcher Silas Ardoin has caught all of Madden’s starts since he arrived in Austin two years ago. It’s a better vantage point than the batter’s box.
“The most difficult thing for hitters is he’s a bigger dude and he’s coming down the mound with everything that he has, and everyone knows his velo is up there with a lot of spin,” Ardoin said. “It makes it hard to see the ball and adjust. It’s not a comfortable at-bat at all.”
The Texas coaching and support staff have played a key role in Madden’s development, including Pierce and pitching coach Sean Allen. Street and volunteer assistant coach Troy Tulowitzki have helped him develop the mental side of his game. Strength coach Matt Couch has helped him improve his physique. The Longhorns have fun together as a team, but their culture is built on hard work.
That’s a foundation that suits Madden well. His father told him to find something from an early age and be great at it. Now, as he has taken a step forward as a prospect, and the Longhorns are taking a step forward as a team, his father’s direction continues to push him.
“There’s no settling for average—that’s been with me since I was a little kid,” Madden said. “I’ve grown since I’ve come to school and I see the glimpses of what I can do. There’s so much more that I can do to grow and develop, and I’m wasting my potential if I don’t tap into that.”