When Haverford College head coach Dave Beccarria saw Stephen Ridings pitch in high school, he saw endless potential in the gangly right-hander. The 6-foot-7 hurler has unlocked some of that potential since, but the Chicago Cubs are hoping there’s plenty left to tap into.
A year ago, no one would have believed that Ridings could be selected in the 8th round of the MLB draft. He was still raw and hadn’t developed much since coming to college.
“I was a nobody at the time,” Ridings said. “But I spent the Summer after my sophomore year working hard every day. I got a lot stronger, gained weight and increased my velocity.”
Formerly listed at 190 pounds, Ridings was able to increase his weight to 225 pounds with the strict diet and exercise program he was put on. This increase in weight and strength impacted his velocity tremendously. He was only hitting in the mid-80’s with his fastball during his sophomore season. By the beginning of his junior year, Ridings was regularly throwing his four-seamer 96 MPH.
Despite the massive increase in velocity, Ridings has plenty of work to do in order to get to the big league level. Both he and his coach mentioned his need to work on his secondary pitches.
“To be honest, some days I just didn’t have my breaking pitches this past season,” Ridings said. “I need to work to get better control and command over my slider and curve ball.”
Even though he didn’t always have command of his secondary pitches, Ridings dominated in the Centennial Conference last season. He was untouchable — striking out 87 batters in 65.1 innings.
Coach Beccaria also spoke at length about Ridings’ competitive nature.
“He’s a fiery guy on the mound, and he did a good job of channeling that competitiveness this season,” he said. “But the best thing about him is that he wants to get to the top.”
Many project Ridings to be a backend of the bullpen pitcher, though he did move into a starting role during his junior year. In 11 starts, he went 6-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 65.1 innings of work.
A year ago, this was a dream for Ridings, but it certainly didn’t feel within reach. Now, just three weeks after the completion of his junior year, he has an offer on the table from one of baseball’s best franchises.