Tagged: Masahiro Tanaka

A Friday Hypothetical: Which Injury-Ravaged Rotation Would You Rather Have?

Whilst I should technically have been listening to a lecture on Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge in my English class earlier today, I was instead thinking about Prince Fielder – and more specifically, the news that emerged earlier today that he had opted to undergo season-ending fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. With Fielder becoming the 17th Rangers player to hit the DL this year alone, I naturally began to wonder whether any team in baseball had been hit so hard in terms on injuries. My Reds have had a few notable ones for sure, injuries striking down arguably three of Cincy’s top five players in Joey Votto, Mat Latos, and Jay Bruce. Both the A’s and Brave’s lost a pair of pitchers to Tommy John surgery before the season even started. But there was only one other team, in one particular element of the game, that I could draw a truly accurate comparison of hurt with – the New York Yankees’ starting rotation. 

After forty minutes of pretending to listen, but silently pondering, I still can not choose who’s in worse shape; the Rangers, or the Yanks. Let’s break it down;

At the head of each rotation is an unquestionable ace. For the Rangers, it’s Yu Darvish, he of the 2.35 ERA this year, a 2nd-place Cy Young award finish last year, and a mind-boggling array of pitches – wouldn’t you agree Torii Hunter?

For the Evil Empire, it’s their new Japanese Import and $155 million man, Masahro Tanaka, who has raced out to a 6-1 record with a 2.39 ERA while leading the league in strikeout to walk rate. He’s got some pretty nasty stuff of his own, as brilliantly detailed by Grantland‘s Shane Ryan earlier today. Little needs to be said about these two – ultimately they should both finish with top-five finishes in the AL Cy Young race this year, and cancel each other out in terms of our little contest.

It gets considerably dicier immediately after those two however, and all because of those pesky injuries.

It’s been a long while since he was as good as his reputation foretold, but C.C. Sabathia being out for six weeks with his degenerative knee problem might not especially hurt the Yankees considering how this year he has a 5.28 ERA in 46 innings. Losing Michael Pineda to first a suspension, and then a strained back muscle, has been a significant blow – the young righty had a 1.83 ERA in the four games he started earlier in the season. Ivan Nova too, after seemingly figuring it out at the end of 2013, is gone for the year after requiring the dreaded TJ. 

What’s left isn’t scaring anyone. Hiroki Kuroda has been a shadow of his former self, and with a 4.61 ERA at 39-years-old, looks cooked. Vidal Nuno has been similarly awful, but doesn’t have the excuse of needing a stick to walk out to the mound for his disgusting 5.82 ERA. David Phelps is David freakin’ Phelps, whereas Alfredo Aceves (who is listed as their fifth starter by ESPN’s depth chart but is yet to start a game) is really just a poor man’s version of Phelps – lacking incredible velocity, with marginal stuff and shaky command, the sort of pitcher who profiles best to a long-man relief role. That’s a whole lot of David Phelps mentioned right there. Eeesh…

Texas on the other hand, lost presumptive no. 2 Derek Holland before the season began in a curious incident with a dog (in the night time – read the book, if you haven’t already). Matt Harrison returned after missing the majority of last season, but would only give the Rangers one additional quality start before bowing out spondylolisthesis, a forward displacement of a vertebra which causes severe nerve irritation, in the lumbosacral joint (L5-S1) in his lower back (yes, I googled that). To add to their starting pitcher availability woes, free agent signing Tommy Hanson didn’t make the team, Alexi Ogando couldn’t be stretched out from the bullpen in time, and Neftali Feliz was moved back into a relief role (and is at Triple-A). 

All of which left the Rangers in their current situation, rolling out Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, and Scott Baker behind Colby Lewis and the aforementioned Darvish.  Things have gotten so desperate in Arlington that Joe Saunders, who lasted 3.2 innings and gave up four earned runs in his only start of the year thus far, will immediately step into the rotation when he returns from the DL soon, the same of which can’t be said for Tanner Scheppers. I might just have to give this one to the Yankees, but by the slimmest of margins.

Neither staff is especially helped by their home park. Yankee Stadium is infamous for its short right field porch, and undeniably augments home runs – just ask Phil Hughes, who having escaped to the cavernous Target Field in Minnesota is looking like the solid pitcher many expected when he was a Yankees farmhand many moons ago. Globe life Park in Arlington too, is incredibly friendly to power hitters, particularly when it heats up. One of the biggest reasons why many predicted Prince Fielder would rebound this year was the fact that he’d be playing half his games in the Texas heat. Presumably this would not only aid his fly balls out of the park, but help him lose a little weight in the process while rounding the bases. All looks equal here then.

But the defense, oh the defense. To the left side of the infield in Texas, the combination of Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus gobble up ground balls. J.P. Arencibia is (mercifully) gone from behind the plate, and their outfield defense is stellar. In the Bronx on the other hand, though the outfield is solid, the infield is dire; Yangervis Solarte is a utility player manning third base, and Brian Roberts a statue at the keystone. Mark Teixeira is a long way removed from his gold glove caliber days. And then there’s Derek Jeter.

Advantage, Texas.

 

The end is nigh: a GIF goodbye to Spring Training (Part I).

With Opening Day II right around the corner, it’s finally time to bid adieu to Spring Training. As always it started out a pleasure, then dragged on for what seemed like an eternity, but we’ve made it through the slog nonetheless; only two more rounds of meaningless games (including today’s slate) remain before we can settle down for the halcyon days of an 162-game summer. So on that note, let us send off Spring Training in style, and celebrate the good, the bad, and the downright ridiculous, in the manner I have arbitrarily deemed best – a two-part GIF review.

One of the most exciting aspects of Spring Training every year – without fail – is the first time you see the winter’s big free-agent signings with their new teams. It still seems weird to watch Robinson Cano rope his first hit for the Mariners, but $240 million apparently quickly erases any loyalty to certain laundry. Cano has had an impressive spring, cranking an .435/.480/.522 line, his squad compiling a 17-11 record – but as we all know, Spring Training stats aren’t especially indicative of regular season success.

Seeing Curtis Granderson wearing Mets blue and orange rather than pinstripes wasn’t especially strange; seeing him get hands on with the Cardinals’ first baseman Scott Moore on the other hand… pretty disturbing (though it should be noted they were once teammates in the minor leagues with the Tigers, so perhaps it was just an overly-friendly renewal of acquaintances).

With David Price quietly staying put in Tampa, Masahira Tanaka was the most wildly talked about pitcher of the offseason. The Yankees landed him from his Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, thanks to a huge 7 year, $175 million offer (including posting fee), only for Brian Cashman to dub him “a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter.” Judging from his outings this spring, it now seems safe to say the Yankees GM was simply downplaying the ace up his sleeve.

Not everything went so smoothly for the Evil Empire during their spring tune-up however. Their infield is approximately 300 years old – not that Cashman noticed – and apparently, they still have a ton of work to do in regards to the simple tenets of fielding – lest more fantastically amusing collisions occur when the games actually count. Here’s a starting tip: don’t throw your mask down the third base line when going for straightforward pop-ups Brian McCann!

Of course, there were also plenty of moments of fielding brilliance to counter the Yanks’ ineptitude. Josh Reddick – a prime bounce back candidate after a 2013 marred by wrist injuries – bagged himself a pair of home run robberies early on, both at the expense of new Giant Michael Morse. (Only one GIF is necessary, seeing as they were nearly identical Spiderman grabs).

Even Daniel Murphy, legitimately one of the worst defensive second basemen in the Majors, managed one instance of amazing work, somehow throwing out the PED-free Bryce Harper with a throw from between his legs. Don’t hold your breath hoping for more of the same Mets fans, Murphy is significantly more likely to end up at first base once Ike Davis and Lucas Duda inevitably fail than to produce a play like this again.

Finally (for today at least), it wouldn’t be Spring Training without a couple of embarrassing incidents occurring on the grassy knolls that serve as outfield bleachers. Hey, anytime you can let your child careen down an incline while you chase after a baseball, to steal a joke from Bill Simmons, you have to do it! I mean, you’re not seriously there solely to watch the Marlins play right?

At least our father of the year didn’t make a complete fool of himself though, unlike this guy below. I’m not sure which is worse, falling over so pathetically, or the beer-toting bro in the Paul Konerko jersey prancing off prize in hand while the desperate kids look on.

That’ll do it for part I of my Spring Training GIF-cap, check back tomorrow for the second remembrance of the weird and wonderful. My thoughts on more serious matters, ie. the Miguel Cabrera extension, if they weren’t already apparent, can wait a while – Miggy isn’t going anywhere for a long time thanks to Dave Dombrowski’s ignorance of aging patterns.

Might the Yankees finally win the Jesus Montero trade?

After only going 85-77 in 2013 (dramatically outperforming their pythagorean win/loss expectation of 79-83 in the process) despite boasting the ML’s leading payroll ($228.1M), God only knows the New York Yankees needed to shake things up this offseason if they were to return to their accustomed winning ways. Out the door went their top position player by WARP from the year prior, Robinson Cano taking his non-hustling talents to the Pacific Northwest. Unobstructed by the Yankees, so too did the powerful (although free-swinging) center fielder Curtis Granderson leave to earn his fortunes elsewhere – in his case, just across town with the Mets. And of course, the Yanks’ top reliever, and the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, departed too – albeit through the planned retirement route rather than New York’s apathy. In rapid fashion, help arrived via free agency; Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and prize capture Masahiro Tanaka were all brought in by GM Brian Cashman for the princely sum of a combined $438M, while Hiroki Kuroda and Brett Gardner were both extended in the hope of further bolstering a squad also returning from injury the big name likes of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.

And yet all their offseason activity may be for nought – in the ultra-competitive AL East, such spending may in fact merely have the effect of a plaster on a broken leg; the infield is still a mess. Their outfield is made of glass. C.C. Sabathia, despite his weight loss, looks likely to be the next Roy Halladay-like/Johan Santana-esque breakdown candidate. Alex Rodriguez’s half-man, half-centaur shadow remains looming over the team. The farm system is as unyielding as a pumpkin patch set up in the Sahara. And the team is ancient – all of their projected starting position players are over 30 years old, and the average age of those players is 33.8. The Yankees are going to need help in every area they can find it if they’re to seriously contend once again in 2014. Michael Pineda might just be one forgotten source.

When we last saw Pineda, it was September 2011, and he was in a Mariners uniform. As a 22-year-old, he hadn’t looked out of place aside Felix Hernandez at the top of Seattle’s rotation, posting a 3.74 ERA (3.42 FIP and 3.53 xFIP) over 28 starts after breaking Spring Training with the team, on his way becoming the first rookie to ever throw at least 150 innings with at least a strikeout per inning and fewer than three walks per nine. Armed with a 94-97mph heater and a slider off of which opponents hit only .175/.220/.294 (Pineda threw it 857 times), the imposing righty’s strikeout percentage of 24.9 was 6th best among 94 qualifiers, landing him right between Justin Verlander and the version of Tim Lincecum who won two Cy Young awards. He was so good at such a young age, that when New York landed him in exchange for the no. 4 prospect in baseball at the time, catcher Jesus Montero, as well as the RHP prospect Hector Noesi, the industry consensus was that they had got themselves a steal – despite the high price of losing Montero.

But, as no one at the time predicted, so far the swap has been the ultimate lose/lose trade. Montero is now an overweight first baseman in Triple-A Tacoma after bombing out in Seattle, and Noesi has been sub-replacement level; the pair have thus far combined for a total of -1.4 fWAR, 2 last place finishes in the AL West, and about 40 extra pounds this spring. Pineda on the other hand, showed up overweight to his first Yankees Spring Training back in 2012, and promptly tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder; two years later, he’s still yet to throw a pitch in the majors. Literally nothing good has come from the trade, apart from, as Baseball Prospectus pointed out in their annual, “the 40-man roster spot the Yankees freed up”. With Montero equally a non-factor in Seattle, Yankees fans couldn’t even direct their trade ire at the Dominican Republic native; the once much-hyped Pineda thus has become quite the forgotten man in New York, as other stories (A-Rod, the 189 plan, retirements), have overwhelmed his absence.

That might soon change. Though he returned to minor league action late last summer (in his 40.2 innings he posted a 9.07 K/9 and 3.10 BB/9), an eye-opening Spring Training has the 6’7 Pineda in line to claim New York’s open fifth rotation spot, and thus back under the spotlight. In beating out David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren for the opportunity, the now 25-year-old Pineda has looked every bit the same as his 22-year-old self; he still has the same mechanics, the late break on the slider, and sub-3 BB/9 control, while similarly lacking the quality third pitch to be truly dominant. The man himself has said so much: “I’m the same Michael Pineda.” His fastball velocity has been somewhat down so far, sitting at around 92mph in Spring Training, though it’s not uncommon for pitchers to ramp it up once regular season games begin. The Bronx Bombers best hope he does so, as Pineda figures to be a large factor in their 2014 success.

Though the Yankees’ starting staff looks the strongest element of the team on paper, in reality questions remain at every spot; can C.C. still do it? Will Father Time finally catch up with Hiroki Kuroda? Is Tanaka the next Yu Darvish, or more like Daisuke Matzusaka? Was Ivan Nova’s second-half performance for real? The youthful impetus a fully-recovered Pineda would provide New York would be immense in terms of shoring up some of the squad’s deficiencies, and a pleasant surprise to those who had forgotten him.

A good performance from the ace up their sleeve, after two and a half years of waiting, could be the difference-maker for the Yankees.

What’s there left to say about Mike Trout?

Following up on my selection of Bryce Harper as 2014 NL MVP last Friday, today was supposed to mark the occasion of my AL MVP pick. But really how much is there left to say about Mike Trout?

Since arriving in the Majors in May 2012, the Millville Meteor has been the most valuable player in baseball, posting consecutive 10+ WAR seasons in his age 20 and 21 campaigns. He has robbed home runs in spectacular fashion, playing center field with all the grace of a gazelle – a gazelle with a crazy vertical leap. On the basepaths, he’s a terror, using the speed that routinely turns grounders into infield hits to pose a constant threat when on base – which by the way, he generally is. At the dish, he’s been one of the five best hitters in the game, combining a patient approach (he was third in the majors with 110 walks last year), with both a plus hit tool (hitting .326 and .323 in the past two years respectively) and surprising power (he already has 62 home runs). Furthermore, he owns Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez, the two pitchers he has faced most often so far in his young career, with Darvish recently admitting he has no idea how to pitch to him – high praise indeed, given his position as reigning AL strikeout king. By all measures, Trout is the most valuable player in the sport (hence why his upcoming contract terms are being widely, and wildly, debated). That Miguel Cabrera has beaten him to the official hardware in both the past two years is merely indicative of a voting class that still favors RBI(zzzzzz) over metrics that also take into account fielding and base running – y’know, crucial elements of the sport.

I’m not here to argue about Cabrera stealing Trout’s shine though; as Jonah Keri put it so wonderfully, “Criticizing Cabrera or Trout is like whining about the mole on Kate Upton’s upper lip.” Despite his lack of formal acknowledgment, when it comes to who’s most valuable, we know. The Angels are lucky to have him, and should hold on to their young superstar for as long as humanly possible. Things could have been very different after all…

In making Mark Teixeira a very rich man – signing the prize position player of the 2008 free agency class to a eight year, $180M contract – the Yankees sacrificed their first round pick in 2009’s MLB amateur draft to his former employer, the Angels, as compensation (Los Angeles would also receive a supplemental pick in the deal). Of course, in a rare turn of bad luck for the Yanks, that sacrificed pick later turned out to be a certain high school kid from from South Jersey (the supplemental pick too, if you were interested, was Tyler Skaggs). In an alternate world, Mike Trout would now be in pinstripes – and a whole heck of other things would probably be different too. Let the butterfly flap it’s wings.

Having extended an eight year offer of their own during the Winter Meetings, lets say Teixeira, having enjoyed his three month spell in SoCal so much, turns down the overtures of not only New York, Boston, Baltimore, and the Nationals, and instead re-ups with the Angels.

Having missed out on Teixeira, but already spent a cool $243.5M in bringing aboard CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the Yankees opt to sign the still-available Manny Ramirez to a two year pact. Though Teixeira amasses 3.0 additional WAR than Ramirez during the season, hitting .292/.383/.565 and finishing second in AL MVP voting, he performs miserably in the postseason, hitting just .180/.282/.311 in what begins a trend of disappointing playoff performances. The Angels fall to the Yankees in the ALCS, who (like in reality) go on to win the World Series over Philadelphia, Ramirez batting a serviceable .281/.324/.469 along the way. With the World Series title in their back pockets, the Yanks also head into 2009 armed with two first round picks, and one very specific target.

At an introductory press conference, New York’s scouting director Damon Oppenheimer speaks first: “He was the second guy on our overall board. It was (Stephen) Strasburg and then Trout.” With the 25th pick in the 2009 draft, the Yankees have of course, snagged Mike Trout, who had fallen into their laps after scouts didn’t pay enough attention to his Northeast high school. Additionally, with Trout already in the bag, the Evil Empire pass on picking up another high school outfielder, Slade Heathcott, and instead select Tyler Skaggs just four picks later. Not even Alex Rodriguez’s and Manny Ramirez’s joint PED admission later in the season can bring down the Yankees, though they eventually fall in the playoffs.

Fast forward to the winter of 2011. With Teixeira in Anaheim, free agent first baseman Albrt Pujols turns instead to his biggest offer, signing for ten years and $275M to be the face of the new Miami Marlins franchise, swallowing his request for a no-trade clause to be included in the deal. With no money left to spend, Miami can’t afford their other free agent target Jose Reyes, who agrees to fill the void at shortstop for the Cardinals. Prince Fielder remains available until January, when Texas finally step up and sign him in an pseudo arms race with the Angels for the most bloated 1B contract in the AL West (and yes, the use of “bloated” was very intentional).

The 2012 season begins, and Trout is called up by the Yankees in May. He does Mike-Trout things, posting a rookie season for the ages in which he hits 326/.399/.564 with an 168 OPS+, his play both inspiring comparison to ‘True Yankee’ Mickey Mantle, and John Sterling to come up with two incredibly annoying home run calls by June (I’m thinking “No Doubt! Mike Trout!” or “That one’s Troutta here!”). Quickly realizing the next franchise cornerstone is in the fold, Derek Jeter steps away from the game graciously after the season, having suffered a gruesome broken ankle in the postseason; in his retirement press conference, he speaks of recognizing how his body can’t do it everyday anymore, and jokes about how he’s been overmatched at shortstop for years anyhow. Rebuffing questions about whether he’d have preferred a retirement tour, Jeter says he wouldn’t want to detract from Trout – who will be the next Yankee captain.

After an amazing sophomore campaign, Trout is unanimously regarded as the best player in baseball. His cheap contract too, means that the Yankees have money to burn elsewhere, and instead of signing Jacoby Ellsbury, re-sign Robinson Cano – GM Brian Cashman dismissively amused that the Yankees would ever not lock in the game’s best player at the keystone for the rest of his career. Having signed Yu Darvish in 2011 with the money they saved not signing Teixeira (and the Rangers’ hands tied by the enormous Fielder contract), they augment their staff further with the addition of Masahiro Tanaka, and swing Tyler Skaggs along with a host of other top prospects to Tampa for a one year rental of David Price. With such formidable pitching depth, and Trout and Cano leading the offense, no one even cares about Rodriguez’s season-long suspension for his part in the Biogenesis scandal; the Yankees romp to the 2014 title regardless.

Mike Trout is named the 2014 AL MVP, just as he will be back in reality.

It’s obvious right? It’s Xander Bogaerts.

As previously detailed in my case for Noah Syndergaard, I’ll occasionally be interspersing my usual content with my (probably misguided) award predictions for the upcoming season. Today marks the next installment pertaining to my poor judgement – it’s time for an AL ROY pick. Let’s just say it isn’t quite the dark horse equivalent to my NL selection

Brian Cashman only projects his Japanese import to be a third starter, despite Masahiro Tanaka’s Spring Training so far. Jose Abreu might hit 30 home runs, but he may also struggle to just make contact. Houston’s stud outfielder George Springer will similarly come up with nothing but air far too many times. Taijuan Walker already has shoulder soreness. Kyle Zimmer may not get an opportunity to crack the Royals’ rotation, especially if Ervin Santana returns. I briefly flirted with the idea of Nick Castellanos, but let’s face it –  there can only really be one AL ROY. It’s obviously Xander Bogaerts.

It’s not often that a player can boast about being a key cog on a World Series champion one year while still retaining his rookie eligibility for the next, but the no. 2 prospect in all of baseball can. The fact that Bogaerts only flashed his potential in his major-league cameo too, yet still drew rave reviews for his performance, should have the rest of the AL East on notice. As assessed by Marc Hulet of Fangraphs, the Aruba native “could be a perennial all-star at either shortstop or third base for years to come in Boston.”

The then-20 year old earned his one-way ticket to Fenway Park on the back of his combining to accrue an .865 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. He played sparingly during the regular season however, appearing in only 18 games and hitting .250/.320/.364 over 50 plate appearances. Then came October. Despite his youth, Bogaerts was asked to take over as Boston’s starting third baseman in the middle of the ALCS, and took full advantage of the opportunity; as put by Baseball Prospectus “he looked like a veteran of huge, high-leverage, bright-spotlight moments when it counted, drawing key walks and scoring runs when the Red Sox needed them most.” And if their testimony to his precocious ability to belie his years weren’t enough, just ask Max Scherzer about his already incredible approach at the plate.

At 6’3 and 185 lbs, Bogaerts is bigger than the traditional shortstop, but with Boston’s apparent lack of interest in re-signing Stephen Drew, that will be the position he plays everyday in 2014, with Will Middlebrooks back manning third. By all accounts, his defense will be at least average for the position, with his offense primed to set him apart from his shortstop peers. Dubbed by Keith Law to be “Troy Tulowitzki with a little less arm”, Fangraphs judged his approach to be advanced for age. Similarly, in their Top 100 Prospects write-up, MLB.com assessed of Bogaerts’ offensive skills “He uses his smooth, balanced swing to make hard contact and drive the ball to all fields. He has big raw power and already knows how to use it.” So while it may be hard for him to replicate the .893 OPS he put up during the postseason, it’s neither an unattainable target for the young star to strive for in his first full season. To put it plainly, such a mark will likely be the regulation mark for Bogaerts in the future should he continue adeptly handling the heightened competition – an adaptation he has made successfully at every stop of his professional career so far.

Projected to begin the season hitting seventh in a potent Red Sox lineup, and with no competition (yet) for his position, Bogaerts has a great opportunity to accrue the sort of counting stats (RBIzzzzzz!) ROY voters traditionally love. His being on a nationally recognized, winning team too will only further bolster his case, setting him apart from most of his fellow junior circuit rookies. The award is his to lose at this point, at least in my opinion. Now, if we had to choose where Bogaerts will rank among Boston’s best hitters by seasons end – that’s a question worth debating. For the record, give me somewhere among David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia on the Red Sox podium.

Did I mention this guy is 21?

Hello Baseball! Archie Bradley’s Significance to Arizona’s 2014 Success.

PHP4F614241587E6With 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;

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.

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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.