24. Jake Madden (140 points, 16 ballots)
Madden was, in my opinion, the crown jewel of all of Colorado’s 2023 trade acquisitions — he was received as part of the deal that sent CJ Cron and Randal Grichuk to the Los Angeles Angels. The 22-year-old 6’6” right-hander has the arm strength and athleticism for prospect watchers to dream of a big league starter or late inning reliever.
Madden’s fastball sits in the mid-90s, but the frame and arm strength will support and likely develop gains in that category. The 2022 fourth-round pick, who got an over-slot $1 million bonus, also shows advanced feel for a change-up and also has a potential plus slider as well. However, he hasn’t shown the same kind of polish and strike-throwing aptitude that fellow Angels trade acquisition (and higher-ranked PuRP) Mason Albright has, so his floor is lower and the reliever risk is higher.
2023 was Madden’s first professional season and it was clear he still needs to figure things out. In the Angels org pitching in Low-A, Madden had a 5.46 ERA in 64 1⁄3 innings across 14 starts with a 1.59 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 rate, and 5.5 BB/9 rate. That last number is the one that stands out for a prospective starter especially. After the trade, Madden made six starts for Low-A Fresno but totaled just 15 innings. He allowed 13 runs on 18 hits and nine walks with 14 strikeouts in that time. Clearly it hasn’t clicked yet, but the potential is there and the national scouts like Madden quite a bit.
Here’s some video of Madden from a start early in 2023 courtesy of Baseball, including some slow motion looks at the motion near the end:
Madden had some of the most electrifying arm strength among the junior college prospects in the 2022 draft, sitting 93-95 mph and touching 97 early in the calendar year, while also flashing a plus changeup. He presented a rare combination of arm strength, athleticism, and body projection for a junior college pitcher, and the Angels gave him a mid-second round bonus in the fourth round.
Madden has begun his first full season at Low-A Inland Empire, where the strike-throwing issues that gave him pre-draft relief risk are still present. He sure looks the part, though, at a high-waisted 6-foot-6 with limbs for days. His delivery isn’t the same, but Tyler Glasnow is a good body comp for Madden. He is so projectable and athletic that it’s likely Madden will continue to improve control of his body and also throw harder than his current 92-95 mph range deep into his mid-20s. And it’s important that he does, because Madden’s natural fastball shape tends to find wood. He’s either going to need to augment the shape of his heater or mature into 96-plus mph heat for it to play. He also has a great distance to travel as a strike-thrower and overall craftsman. Madden’s slider length and finish are inconsistent, and his changeup has taken a back seat to his fastball and slider so far in 2023. Both secondaries flash plus, and I’m inclined to project heavily on them based on Madden’s frame, delivery, and general athleticism. “This is what they look like,” and over time, pitchers with frames and deliveries like this tend to be big league starters. If you line Madden up with the 2023 draft’s college pitchers, he’d be among the top 10 arms.
Keith Law of the Athletic ranked Madden 12th in the Angels system pre-season 2023:
[Madden is] 92-97 mph with a slider and change that both project to plus, which gives him a fairly high ceiling, but he’s got a long arm swing that he has a hard time repeating. He also needs to get stronger, coming in at 6-6 and a listed 185 pounds, although that’s already on the Angels’ agenda for him.
Law had this to say after the trade:
Right-hander Madden needs to go to the bullpen, stat, but he has three pitches that project to 55 or 60, with a mid-90s fastball, slider, and change. It’s a very long arm action (yes, again), and he doesn’t throw anything for strikes consistently enough to start, which is also why he has a 5+ ERA in low A as a 21-year-old.
It’s a great arm, though, and stuff that should play at any altitude; maybe the Rockies can do something with the delivery, although I would just move him to a relief role and see if he hits 100. For an extra outfielder and a DH who might not have much left in the tank, this is a great return for Colorado.
There isn’t much track record with Madden, but there is a lot to work with. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has a loose arm and a starting pitcher’s repertoire. He was up to 98 mph with his fastball last spring and it can be heavy, getting ground-ball outs when he keeps it down in the zone, breaking bats when he isn’t missing them. His mid-80s slider has improved and could be a true out pitch if he stays on top of it, and he misses bats with his upper-80s changeup as well.
The two main areas of developmental focus for Madden are his command — he walked more than 4.5 per nine innings in his junior college season and was at 5.5 BB/9 at the time of the trade — and his physicality. Added strength will help him repeat his delivery and could lead to better strikes moving forward. More than anything, he needs to get on the mound and beef up his pitching resume with a high ceiling to try to reach.
I was the high voter on Madden this time around, ranking him 16th on my list as a 40+ FV player, but I get why others might not have been too enthused. The 2023 performance wasn’t great and it wasn’t at an advanced minor league level, while the scouting accolades rely on what could be rather than what is with Madden. He’s also got quite a bit of relief risk.
With that said, If Madden did go to the ‘pen, he’s a late-inning arm. If Madden and the Rockies are able to take advantage of the frame and athleticism, the result will be a starter who could pitch near the front of a rotation. It’s early days with Madden and the potential pay-off is worth some patience for him to figure it out. I anticipate him starting 2024 with Fresno again and hopefully moving up to High-A Spokane if things go well.