Have you heard? The Orioles organization is stockpiling arms. The farm system, recently ranked as the fifth-best in baseball, is heavy on pitching depth, highlighted by the likes of Grayson Rodriguez (the club’s No. 2 prospect) and lefty DL Hall (No. 4). There are plenty of other pitchers in the Top 30 list worth watching this season, including Keegan Akin, Michael Baumann, Alex Wells, and Zac Lowther, all guys who could appear with the big-league club before the end of 2021.
Slightly farther back, but not too much, is the unheralded right-hander Kyle Bradish, the Orioles' No. 29 prospect in 2021. Bradish’s under-the-radar status may change pretty soon, though.
In November of last year, MASN’s Steve Melewski asked former Orioles farmhand Brian Gonzalez, who spent time at the Orioles’ alternate camp in Bowie last season, to name the prospects who most impressed him. Gonzalez ticked off some expected names: Ryan Mountcastle, Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, Dean Kremer, Adley Rutschman. Then he added one more he’d forgotten to mention: Bradish.
That kid has some unreal stuff. If he can just get the experience at the upper levels and still continue to work on his stuff, I think he’s going to be unbelievable. … He’s quiet and calm and then he gets on the mound and it’s like thunder out of his hand. It’s nice and easy and it explodes. Great guy, super nice guy. Calm and just goes about his business. On the mound, it’s 94-96 (mph) with some cut and ride and this hammer curveball. That’s why the O’s got him. They saw something special and that is a credit to the organization in knowing what they want.
In December 2019, when the Orioles shipped the reliable Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels, their return on the trade was four pitching prospects: Isaac Mattson, Zach Peek, Kyle Brnovich, and Bradish. A fourth-round pick out of New Mexico State in 2018, Bradish put up a 6-7 record with a 4.28 ERA as a starter in the hitter-friendly Single-A California League. He posted a .235 opponent batting average while striking out 120 in 101 innings, but he also walked 53, to end up with a 1.42 WHIP.
Control has and continues to be Bradish’s biggest Achilles’ heel. The 6-foot-4 righty has a somewhat complicated delivery, as you can see from this 2019 clip of him on the mound. He collects his glove slowly, pauses at the top, then leans so far back he looks like he’s in a limbo contest before heaving his front half toward the plate. To me, it looks like the sort of thing Orioles pitching coach Chris Holt and Bowie pitching coach Justin Ramsey might want to simplify for more repeatability.
Someone we were excited to watch this year was RHP Kyle Bradish. The former New Mexico State standout was acquired in the offseason Dylan Bundy trade and entered the #Orioles organization as the 21st ranked prospect.— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) May 15, 2020
Struck out 120 in his pro debut last year at High-A (101 IP) pic.twitter.com/BP8ORl8b7Z
Scouting reports, meanwhile, tout Bradish’s “four-pitch mix and natural deception,” painting him as having the potential upside of a middle-or-back-end starter. MLB Pipeline ranks his fastball at a 55, his slider 55, his changeup 45, and his curveball 55 (a pitch he uses to miss bats, and which another scout considers his best of the four). Still, several scouts worry that, with his “unique delivery” and many “moving parts on the mound,” control issues may ultimately land him in the bullpen. It’ll be the main thing to watch in Bradish’s development.
Because of the canceled 2020 minor league season, Orioles fans have seen precious little of Bradish on the mound. But on August 3, 2020, the 24-year-old was added to the O’s Bowie site, where apparently he was among the standout performers. According to MLB’s Joe Trezza, Bradish made the biggest jump among O’s prospects during 2020, not least because his fastball velocity jumped from 92-94 mph after arriving from the Angels to 94-96 by the end of the year.
This February, Bradish earned an invite to Orioles spring training along with Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, and No. 12 prospect LHP Kevin Smith. None made an official start, but the invite itself was kind of a nice sign, especially for Bradish. Since the big-league team headed north, Bradish and the others have been stationed at the O’s complex in Sarasota working out. On May 4, when the Double-A season starts, Bradish, Hall and Smith are expected to head to Double-A Bowie, where they’ll make up most of the starting rotation.
In light of minor league baseball’s being completely wiped out in 2020, it’s a terrible cliché to say that 2021 will be a big year for a prospect like Kyle Bradish… but it will. Orioles fans should watch closely to see whether the big righty continues to refine offspeed offerings like the slider, and most importantly, whether he can hone his control under the watch of Bowie pitching coach Justin Ramsey and manager Buck Britton. If this happens, you might see the deceptive righty with the explosive stuff in Triple-A Norfolk—and Baltimore—pretty soon.