With Superbowl XLVIII in the rearview mirror and the dog days of the NBA fast approaching, what makes more sense than to look ahead to the upcoming baseball season. Accordingly, I’m going to be breaking down some of the players, teams, and story lines which I deem most relevant/engaging/amusingly-bloggable leading up to Opening Day 2014. Or actually just until the week before Opening Day – I’ll be in Nicaragua for the 8 days preceding the first pitch… Anyhow, by virtue of their alphabetical rank, I present my person of interest relating to the 2014 incarnation of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Archie Bradley.
If you want the quick and dirty 140 character scouting report of Archie Bradley, I refer you simply to Ben Badler’s tweet from last year’s Futures Game in which Bradley threw a perfect inning, inducing two groundouts and an easy fly out;
Archie Bradley with an overpowering 96-98 mph fastball and a low-80s hammer with power and depth. Filthy.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) July 14, 2013
Nothing Badler says in those few words is false – Bradley is simply so good that ‘Filthy’ sums his overpowering stuff up quite sufficiently. Drafted in the 1st round (7th overall) back in 2011 – the same draft in which the Diamondbacks also took the since-traded Trevor Bauer with the 3rd overall pick – the 6-4, 225lb Bradley looks set to crack the Arizona rotation at some point this year, if not straight from Spring Training, having spent his age 20 season dominating the minors. Boasting a fastball that consistently sits 94-96 mph, in addition to the aforementioned “hammer” curve (80-82 mph), Bradley possesses two plus-plus pitches, and while his changeup clearly profiles as his third pitch, it still projects to be comfortably above average. In combination with his above average control, and improving command, Bradley was simply too good for the lower levels in 2013, posting a 1.97 ERA over 152 innings across High A and AA ball, impressively striking out 162 in that span. His dominant year only served to confirm the high esteem in which scouts held him – Bradley could well be the future no. 1 of a big-league rotation, the ace which the Diamondbacks have been trying to acquire all winter long.
The Diamondbacks have clearly been shopping for their frontline answer to the riches possessed by NL West rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers. In an attempt to bolster a starting rotation that was a large part of an underwhelming .500 2013 campaign that saw those Dodgers celebrate the capture of the division in their home pool, Arizona fell short in the bidding for Masahiro Tanaka, and rightly weren’t willing to include Bradley in any deal for David Price. For a team built upon the depth of it’s pitching more so than offense, the performance of Kirk Gibson’s staff was far from the ‘gritty’ pre-season expectations conferred upon it; though lefty starter Patrick Corbin posted an All-Star worthy first half, his performance fell off after the break, while sophomore Wade Miley (predictably) regressed from his surprising rookie campaign. Ian Kennedy, who entered the season as the staff’s leader only a season removed from winning 21 games himself, also struggled, generating more press for his plunking of Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke than for his performance on the mound, before being dealt to the Padres in July. Following him out of the organizational door, last year’s top prospect Tyler Skaggs was sold low on in the winter trade that netted Mark Trumbo (from the Arizona perspective, the less said about this entire deal the better).
With Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, and Randall Delgado joining Corbin and Miley in the projected 2014 rotation (barring injury), Bradley figures to be on the outside looking in, at least to begin the season. But the Diamondbacks pitching quantity shouldn’t long obstruct his quality; if Bradley meets expectations, it wouldn’t be completely out of the equation for him to succeed from the jump, á la fellow 2011 draftee José Fernández in 2013. With GM Kevin Towers reportedly considering an 175/180 innings limit for his top prospect, the path of the 1st overall pick in that draft, Gerrit Cole, might be more relevant in regards to how much we see of Bradley in the majors next year; called up on June 11th, the Pirates not only suppressed Cole’s service time but still managed to wring 117.1 big-league innings out of him, and snuck into the postseason in the process.
The 2014 Diamondbacks can only hope to rebound from last year’s disappointment, and follow Pittsburgh’s lead into the playoffs. The performance of Bradley will be a huge factor in determining if they do so or not.