Archie Bradley misses bats. The Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings last year in the Midwest League. It wasn’t a fluke. Drafted seventh overall in 2011 out of Broken Arrow [Oklahoma] High School, the now-20-year-old right-hander has the best fastball in the D-Backs’ system — and a plus curveball.
He also misses the strike zone. At least that was the case last summer when he walked 5.6 batters per nine innings. He allowed just 5.8 hits, and only six home runs in 136 innings, so his performance was, in many ways, a pitcher’s version of three-true-outcomes.
With improved command, Bradley profiles as a front-line starter. Along with overpowering stuff, the former prep quarterback — he could have played football at the University of Oklahoma — gets high grades for his leadership skills. Marc Hulet rates him as baseball’s 26th-best prospect. Baseball America rates him a tick higher, at No. 25.
David Laurila: How would you describe your mechanics?
Archie Bradley: Ever since I figured out that pitching was something I could do, I’ve had a high leg kick. My hands have always been high. For the most part, people have told me [my delivery] is uncommon. It’s tough to repeat, but for me it works. I found a way to stay consistent with it, and I enjoy it.
It’s all about timing. Everything about pitching is timing and consistency. It’s all about the control of the leg kick more than anything. Sometimes I’ll get a little quick — as in throwing it up or throwing it down — but when I control it up and down, I’m usually pretty consistent.
DL: Your walk rate was high last year. Why?
AB: One part of it was trying to be too fine. I’d try to throw a pitch right on the outside corner instead of to the outside part of the plate. I wasn’t doing a good enough job of just throwing strikes and it became kind of a mental thing. I started walking guys and it kind of got in my head. Any time I’d walk a guy, it just kept rolling and rolling like a snowball affect.
When you’ve been successful for so long, and feel you have an understanding of something, and then things start to go bad, you get confused. You don’t understand what’s going on. In a way, you kind of create a problem that wasn’t really even there.
DL: Is velocity important to your game?
AB: It is. It’s another tool. When you can locate, but also reach back and throw 96 to get that 3-2 strikeout, it’s really big. When you throw hard, guys always have to gear up. They can’t just be sitting on something, or guessing. They have to be ready for it. Last year I was sitting 92-95 but could reach back and go 96-97 when I needed to.
DL: Is throwing inside a big part of your game?
AB: I think it’s really big. If you ask any hitter, they don’t like guys that throw inside. It’s uncomfortable for them. Throwing inside can throw off a hitter’s game plan and it allows you to do a lot more with that plate.
If you go inside, and a guy doesn’t really back up like you want him to, you can go even more in until he gets the message. The message is, “Hey, this is my plate.”
DL: Trevor Bauer has talked about the value of working up in the zone. Do you agree with that?
AB: Nothing against Trevor, but I don’t understand how you can live up in the zone. I’ve watched baseball for 15 years now — and the game has been around forever — and no one has really succeeded by throwing the ball up in the zone. I think it’s a lot harder to hit a ball going 95 mph at the knees than it is going 95 mph at the chest. If you can pitch down in the zone, you can be successful.
DL: How would you describe your curveball?
AB: It’s a knuckle-curve. I flick it out of my hand. There aren’t too many guys who throw it, but it’s been getting more popular. I throw it pretty hard, from 80 to 84. My arm angle is basically three-quarters, but my curveball is pretty much a 12-to-6.
DL: How would you rate your changeup?
AB: On a grade of one to 10, it’s probably a six right now. It’s a pitch I didn’t really need in high school, so I just started throwing it last year. It’s what I really worked on this off-season. It’s a four-seam circle and it’s getting better, but you know how it is. A changeup is a pitch you have to continually throw to get a feel for. It’s a work-in-progress, but I’m happy with how it’s coming along.
DL: The catcher is considered the quarterback on the field. As a former quarterback known for his leadership skills, how does that dynamic work?
AB: At the lower levels, you pretty much call your own game. Until you get to Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues, most of the catchers you’re dealing with are just as young as you. I know myself better than they know me. I know which pitches I want to throw.
The way I approach the game… I study hitters. I study the way they go about things, so I feel I have a better idea of what to throw than the catcher does. Until I get to those higher levels, I’m going to pretty much call my own game. That said, last year I threw to one catcher most of the time and we kind of got on the same page as the season went on.
DL: How well did you know the hitters you faced in the Midwest League?
AB: I’ve played against some of them and others I just know who they are. You kind of keep a mental notebook. Some guys keep a [physical] notebook, but I just remember guys. I watch their at bats and store them in my brain.
I’ve thrown against Javier Baez quite a bit. I was also teammates with him and Francisco Lindor at AFLAC, and I would talk to other pitchers who have faced them. You get to know who they are. Power-wise, Baez can really swing the bat and Lindor is a really good contact hitter — the kid knows how to put an at bat together. Miguel Sano is another guy. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to our field in South Bend, but there’s a team store in left field and he was putting balls off the roof of it in BP.
DL: Any final thoughts?
AB: Every time I go out there I expect to win. That’s the mentality I take to the mound. It’s just like football in that I’ve learned to take the bad with the good and have a short-term memory. Every game is a new day.