Pipeline Perspectives: Bradley should be next up
Baseball's top-ranked pitching prospect ready to be tested at the highest level
There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
There are already some top prospects playing in the big leagues. Young future stars like Boston's Xander Bogaerts and Detroit's Nick Castellanos made Opening Day rosters, and Houston's George Springer was promoted this week. Who deserves to be the next big prospect to get the call? That's the question Jim Callis and I are pondering in this week's edition of Pipeline Perspectives.
This isn't a predictor kind of a column. Jim and I aren't guessing who will get called up to the big leagues next. There are too many variables that go into those decisions, from service time to need at the big league level. No, we're debating who we believe should get the next promotion to the highest level.
Jim makes a good case for his choice, Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco. Based on Polanco's success in 2013, his strong winter ball and Spring Training showings, not to mention Pittsburgh's lack of firepower in right field, it's hard to argue against Polanco.
So I'm not going to try. I am simply going to lay out the best argument possible for my choice: D-backs right-hander Archie Bradley.
To say Bradley is ready for a big league shot is not exactly breaking new ground. He is, after all, MLB.com's top-rated pitching prospect, coming in at No. 5 on the Top 100 rankings. He had one of the best seasons of any pitching prospect in baseball in 2013, spending most of the year at Double-A, finishing third in the Minors in ERA (1.84) and striking out more than a batter per inning. While his walk rate needs to come down a bit, his overall command improved.
Bradley, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, got a decent look in big league camp this Spring Training. He made three starts, during which he pitched 8 1/3 innings. The first two were outstanding, scoreless outings during which he struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. His last outing of the spring was a little shaky, and he began the season with Triple-A Reno.
Though he's just 21, one gets the feeling that it's a question of when, not if, Bradley gets the call this season. He's off to a good start in the Pacific Coast League, allowing two runs over 12 innings. He's yielded just seven hits for a .175 batting average against.
Keep in mind that he is several years younger than the average pitcher in the PCL and he is getting his first taste of that level after making 21 of his 26 starts last year in Double-A. To say that the right-hander needs more time in Triple-A -- as Arizona general manager Kevin Towers did this week when he recalled Mike Bolsinger instead of Bradley to take Trevor Cahill's spot in the rotation -- isn't so far-fetched.
But sometimes you have to take a leap with a young pitcher with this much talent. The Marlins did it with Jose Fernandez, jumping him to the big leagues without a start above A-ball. That seems to have worked out pretty well so far. I'm not suggesting that Bradley could be this year's Fernandez. But I believe that a similar kind of impact is feasible.
Even if Bolsinger throws well, the D-backs rotation needs Bradley. Arizona has the worst team ERA in the Majors as well as the highest for a rotation: 7.63 through its first 18 games. Yes, that's a small sample size, but taking a look at better internal options might make some sense.
I appreciate what Towers said, that he doesn't want Bradley to be seen as a savior for a struggling team. But he doesn't need to be cast in that role. His only job, once called up, is to compete and give his team a chance to win.
Can he do that more consistently than current members of the D-backs' rotation? That obviously remains to be seen, but you'd probably be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't think the answer is yes.
And while Bradley correctly should not be asked to be a savior, he is a young pitcher who has all the makings to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. At the very least, he could be a jolt of energy to get things turned around. And the D-backs might be surprised by his ability, right out of the gate, to help put their staff back in the right direction.