CLAYTON RICHARD, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: September 12, 1983
Drafted: 8th Round, 245th Overall, 2005 (White Sox)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
College: University of Michigan
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Richard is a lefty who had solid seasons, each with 200+ innings pitched, for the Padres in 2010 and 2012. In 2011 and 2013-14, though, he struggled with shoulder problems and he hasn’t pitched in the majors since June 2013. Drafted out of college, he was making slow progress through the White Sox’ system until 2008, when a big season got him on the prospect track. He went to San Diego the following year in the Jake Peavy trade. Richard throws a low-90s sinker that generates groundballs, along with an average-ish slider, curve and change. His career groundball rate is exactly 50% (major league average is 45-46%), although his two highest rates came in 2012-13. He’s had strong platoon splits, holding left-handed hitters to a 237/290/321 line, while right-handed hitters have batted 280/348/458 against him. He generally had passable K rates in the majors until he suddenly stopped missing bats in 2012. The Pirates signed him to a minor league contract for 2015.
Richard started well in his pro debut, although advanced rookie ball isn’t a high level for a college draftee. Baseball America rated him the White Sox’ #25 prospect after the season.
For a college draftee pitching in low A during his first full season, Richard didn’t have an especially impressive season. His ERA was good, but opponents batted .310 against him in low A and .315 in four starts in high A. He also had very low K rates.
In high A, Richard improved over the previous year, but still didn’t dominate and still had a very low K rate.
Richard had a breakout season, dominating in AA and even more in AAA. The White Sox called him up for three starts in July, then for good in mid-August. In the minors, he didn’t miss a lot of bats, but he held opponents to a .212 average and allowed only five HRs. He had more trouble in the majors, but wasn’t as bad as his ERA.
Richard started the season in the White Sox’ bullpen, then joined their rotation in mid-May. He pitched just respectably, with a better K rate than he’d generally had in the minors and also a higher walk rate. The Sox included him in a deadline deal with the Padres for Jake Peavy and he finished the season in the San Diego rotation. He pitched about the same after the trade, except his walk rate worsened.
Richard had his best MLB season, although it probably wasn’t quite as good as his ERA. His xFIP, for one thing, was 4.04, and he had the advantage of a home park that’s highly advantageous to pitchers.
Richard was having a similar season when he went out for the year in early July with a shoulder sprain. One difference with the previous season was that the bottom dropped out of his K rate. His xFIP (4.49) was again higher than his ERA.
Richard had another solid year for the Padres, leading the league in starts, although he also led the majors in hits allowed and the NL in HRs allowed. The latter had not been a particular problem for him previously. He compensated for those issues, and for an even lower K rate, but cutting his walk rate to half of what it had been. This time, his xFIP of 4.16 was only a little above his ERA.
Richard’s season was plagued by injuries. Early on, he missed three weeks with a virus. He struggled both before and after that, then went out in June with a shoulder injury. He ultimately had two surgeries on the shoulder and did not return. The Padres outrighted him after the season and he elected free agency.
Richard spent much of the season recovering from the shoulder surgeries. He finally signed with Arizona at the end of July and struggled through four starts in the minors.
The Pirates no doubt hope to make Richard the next in a line of pitchers who’ve proven to be successful reclamation projects, other examples being Vance Worley, Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez. He figures to be a depth option, as he obviously still needs to show he’s recovered his 2010 and 2012 form. Richard had the ability to opt out of his minor league deal when the Pirates didn’t place him on the roster at the end of spring training, but he was impressed with the team and optimistic about their ability to help him regain his form, so he chose to stay. He was slated to remain in spring training for a while, as Worley did, and then join Indianapolis. With Charlie Morton hurt at the beginning of the season and Brandon Cumpton out for the year, Richard will be an important option and is likely to reach Pittsburgh.
2015: Minor league contract
|Signing Bonus: $78,000
MiLB Debut: 2005
MLB Debut: 7/23/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: 2015
MLB FA Eligible: 2015
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 7/21/2008
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 5.070
|June 7, 2005: Drafted in the 8th round, 245th overall, by the Chicago White Sox; signed on June 10.
July 21, 2008: Contract purchased by the Chicago White Sox.
July 31, 2009: Traded by the Chicago White Sox with Dexter Carter, Aaron Poreda and Adam Russell to the San Diego Padres for Jake Peavy.
October 28, 2013: Outrighted to AAA by the San Diego Padres; refused assignment and became a free agent.
July 30, 2014: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
November 4, 2014: Became a free agent.
December 3, 2014: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.