Archie Bradley was the seventh pick in the 2011 Rule 4 draft. By avoiding the injury bug and through stellar performance he has surpassed classmates Dylan Bundy, Danny Hultzen, and Trevor Bauer. Ben Badler of Baseball America readily included Bradley among the “eight or nine” prospects that could be future aces.
At 6’4” and 225 pounds Bradley is a prototypical right-handed power pitcher. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and his primary breaking ball is a 12-6 curve. He made a cameo appearance in 2011 before pitching 140 innings at Single-A in 2012. He started at High-A in 2013 but showed such dominance in 28.2 innings that he moved to Double-A for another 123.1. Overall, his stats were outstanding; 1.84 ERA and 9.59 K/9 are the highlights. A strand rate over 80% was the main force behind the 3.06 FIP being higher than his ERA. He also allowed only six home runs all year. He averaged a touch less than six innings per start but was allowed to exceed 100 pitches nine times. His high pitch count was 105.
Tall pitchers seek to deliver on a “downward plane” so batters are forced to pound the ball into the dirt. Bradley seems to use his height well, in 2013 46.61% of balls put in play against him were grounders against only 24.48% in the air. His spray chart shows very few balls hit deep in the park. Most minor league hitters just did not have a chance.
Bradley’s control was below average in 2013. While he improved upon his 5.59 BB/9 of 2012, 4.09 BB/9 is too many. His Single-A work helped the overall numbers, in Double-A he walked 4.31. His 2.35 K/BB does not match up with the glowing scouting reports he receives.
Prospect rankers do not seem concerned about the walks, but they evaluate on how good a player will eventually be. Bradley seems to have a larger gap between his present grade and projection than most top tier prospects. His first two Spring Training starts were impressive, he was unscored upon while striking out nine. It is far easier to succeed in shorter bursts and when the lineup will not turn over multiple times.
Ideally Bradley should stay in the high minors, work on his control and continue to develop his changeup. Injuries to Bronson Arroyo (back) and Patrick Corbin (UCL) opened holes in the rotation however and Bradley may stick with Arizona come Opening Day. NL-Only players need to go after him just for the strikeout potential. Mixed leaguers should shy away. Six walks in 8.1 Spring innings does not indicate much growth in control. He could become a hot name in the next week or so, but the prudent action is to let someone else reach for him.