In the second inning of a Midwest League game against the Dayton Dragons, the catcher for the South Bend Silver Hawks made a return throw that was a dart at Bradley’s ankle. Initially the righty starter looked annoyed, but then he flashed a wry smile at his receiver and moved on. Archie Bradley played with the moment and gave me the impression that he was very comfortable pitching on a hot sunny day in July. Confidence in this 6’4” pitching prospect comes easily and seems well placed.
Statistically, his 2012 full season professional debut was intriguing as he finished with some of the best and worst numbers on the year. In comparing Bradley’s stats to those in his circuit and those in the Sally, I narrowed the scope of my search to pitchers who compiled 112 innings or more (0.8 innings per league game being the minimum necessary to qualify for Midwest League pitching ratio leaders).
Archie Bradley was the second youngest pitcher in the Midwest League in 2012 and only four in the Sally were younger. Despite his relative youth, no one in either the Midwest League or the Sally permitted a lower oppositional batting average (.181) or slugging percentage (.273). These stats are a somewhat inevitable result of Bradley striking out more batters per nine innings (10.06) than anyone else in the two low A leagues. But that is only part of the equation. When they did put Bradley’s pitches into play, Midwest League hitters mustered a mere .250 batting average, which was the lowest such ratio against any pitcher in that league or the Sally. Archie Bradley also ranked fifth best in the Midwest League with regards to the percentage of line drives he permitted among balls put into play (12.7%). Of course, if these were the only statistics that people paid attention to then the hype on Bradley would have been exponentially greater. The reality is that Archie Bradley had the worst BB/9innings (5.56) in all of low A baseball last year. This caused his WHIP (1.37) and ERA (3.84) to be mediocre. In 2009, Matt Moore finished his low A year with 170 strikeouts and 5.12 walks per nine innings.
One can look past Archie Bradley’s control issues, as some may have done with Matt Moore, because of the pure stuff that he brings to the hill. His fastball and curve were ranked by Baseball America as the best in the Midwest League. On July 6, 2012, in Dayton, Ohio, his supreme curveball was on display. The first curve that he unleashed against the Dragons in the opening inning started out at the letters and then rolled right off the table as the batter swung and missed helplessly for strike three. The curve is not loopy but instead seems to be heavy as if drawn to the catcher’s mitt by hidden magnets. Despite his known control issues, Bradley was often able to spot his fastball that, according to the Dayton announcers, was clocked more than once at 93mph. From the windup, his delivery seems to offer some deception to hitters. Bradley starts out his motion with his hands pumped out high at cap level and his left knee kicked way up. Bradley then brings his throwing hand low behind his body as his glove points forward and up. Without losing control of his mechanics, Bradley has enough going on to gain an advantage before he has even let go of the ball. The general downward trajectory on so many of his pitches makes Bradley a groundball pitcher (51.8 GB%).
Archie Bradley seems to have the physical reach, height, and strength to give his future major league team, presumably the Diamondbacks, a lot of innings. His strikeout rates and an apparent ability to induce weak contact are all great indications. The less friendly confines and a more skilled offensive opposition in the California League will offer additional developmental obstacles for Bradley as he continues to work on his control and developing a third pitch. Nevertheless, the possibilities for this twenty-year old are truly exciting.
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