The 2021 MLB Draft will begin on July 11, 2021. We take a look at Richard Fitts, a hard-throwing right-hander from Auburn with impressive control.
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Richard Fitts, Right-Handed Pitcher, Auburn
Weight: 215 lbs.
2019: 21G, 5GS, 5-3, 5.31 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 78 H, 37 ER, 9 HR, 17 BB, 47 K
2020: 6G, 1GS, 1-0, 2.77 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 16 K
2021: 13G, 8GS, 0-3, 5.88 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 38 H, 27 ER, 10 HR, 15 BB, 41 K
Fitts’s fastball grades as his best pitch, though that’s definitely not a knock on his complementary pitches. He has an impactful changeup that reaches the mid- to upper-80s, as well as a low- to mid-80s that is still in its developmental stages.
As mentioned, Fitts’s fastball is his best pitch. He throws the pitch aggressively and confidently, and it frequently sits in the mid-90s. He tops out around 97 mph in-game but has reached triple-digits in non-game situations before. The pitch comes in fast and fades downwards late, giving life to a pitch that is already hard to hit given its velocity.
Fitts’s changeup is solid, too. While it wasn’t as effective in 2021, this pitch is a solid complement to his big heater. According to MLB Pipeline, it operates “with some splitter action.” He also has a slider that needs more development but has the potential to be a lethal breaking ball.
He also has a strong and sound delivery with good stuff and impressive control. Hard-throwing pitchers aren’t always the best when it comes to control, so the fact that Fitts can possess both heat and control is very promising.
As mentioned, Fitts’s slider needs more development. Even his changeup could use some refining. The fact that these pitches still aren’t developed is concerning because he needs to have a solidified complementary pitch by the time his pro career starts. After all, he can’t throw the fastball 100 percent of the time, and he’ll have to focus on balancing his repertoire as he climbs through the levels of affiliated ball. Adding a fourth pitch seems necessary, though that’s even further down the road.
Pro Comparison: Rafael Montero
My reasoning behind this comparison lies mainly in pitch arsenal. Montero throws the same three pitches as Fitts. The 30-year-old throws his fastball, which averages 95 mph, 60 percent of the time. His changeup is thrown 21 percent of the time and averages 90 mph. He throws his 86 mph slider on 18 percent of occasions. Both these velocities and these pitch usage rates are fairly similar to what we can expect out of the hard-throwing Fitts, though he might not throw the slider quite that much. Montero is slightly undersized in comparison to Fitts (difference of three inches and 25 pounds), but they still share the hard-throwing profile and three-pitch repertoire.
Montero opened his career as a starter before eventually moving to the bullpen full-time, which seems most likely for Fitts. The Seattle right-hander has a 4.98 career ERA.
Draft Projection: Fourth-Round Pick
Teams are constantly drooling over hard-throwing righties, and many clubs are now favoring collegiate pitchers over prep arms. Both of these factors bode well for Fitts despite the concerns surrounding his complementary pitchers. The fact that he has boasted impressive control is also immensely positive. Further, Auburn’s solid history of producing right-handers also bodes well for the 18-year-old’s draft stock.