The Orioles entered 2022 with plenty of uncertainty in the starting rotation. Early injuries to John Means and Dean Kremer further trimmed a paper-thin unit, but they also created an opportunity.
Enter everyone’s favorite pitching prospect not named Grayson Rodriguez or DL Hall. The Orioles promoted Kyle Bradish and sent him to the mound before the end of April.
Baltimore acquired Bradish and three other pitching prospects in a deal that sent former top prospect Dylan Bundy to the Angels in 2019. Bradish debuted at Bowie in 2021 after the pandemic eliminated the minor league season in 2020. He struck out seven or more batters and did not allow an earned run in his first three starts with the Baysox before a quick promotion to Triple-A.
Bradish posted a modest 4.26 ERA and 1.431 WHIP in 21 appearances with the Tides. He received a bit of buzz the following year in spring training, but the Birds asked him to prove it once again at Triple-A before a call to the show. Two earned runs and 17 strikeouts in his first three starts showed he was ready for the call.
Bradish took a tough loss in his major league debut after allowing two earned runs in six innings against Boston. He struggled in his second start, but the then 25-year-old announced his presence with his third appearance with the Orioles.
Bradish tossed seven delightful innings and picked up his first major league victory against the Cardinals on May 10. The New Mexico State product struck out 11 and did not walk a batter. Unfortunately, he failed to build on his success in the mound city.
Bradish’s rookie year was a tale of two halves. He held a 7.38 ERA in 10 starts before shoulder inflammation landed him on the injured list. He showed off a strong fastball and an impressive slider, but failed to replicate anything close to that magical night in St. Louis. Bradish, like the Orioles at that point in the season, demonstrated plenty of potential but had yet to arrive.
The rookie returned at the end of July and the party started right away. Baltimore won the first four games that Bradish started and continued to inch closer to an improbable postseason berth. He eased back into things with starts capped at six innings but finally turned in a sequel to his strong performance back in May.
Bradish delivered eight scoreless innings against Houston on August 26. He struck out six, allowed two hits, and set the tone for a three-game series that limited the best team in baseball to only two runs.
The rookie picked up where he left off and glided through seven shutout innings his next time out against Cleveland. He tossed seven strong against Boston 10 days later, but saved his best for another meeting with Houston.
Bradish left the World Series favorites clueless at the plate once again. He did not allow a baserunner until the sixth inning and never gave up a run in 8.2 innings. The righty struck out 10 and did not walk a batter in one of the more impressive starts in recent memory for the Birds.
His outing against the Cardinals was special, but the repeated success against Houston provided plenty of reason for optimism moving forward. He emerged as Baltimore’s most consistent starter in the second half with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.164 WHIP in his final 13 starts.
Bradish simplified his windup after the injury, but his success likely stemmed from the increased usage of his offspeed pitches. Bradish had a plus slider all season, but he relied on the heater quite a bit in the first half. His four-seamer ranked above average in velocity and spin rate, but it’s difficult to beat major league hitters when they know what is coming. Bradish threw his fastball over 50 percent of the time before his injury.
Bradish threw the slider even more in the second half, but he turned to his curveball and a sinker down the stretch. He used a heavy dosage of breaking balls in his final start against Houston, and appears poised to enter 2023 with an impressive offspeed arsenal.
Opponents hit .212 off his slider, .233 against the curve ball and .211 when facing the changeup. All three pitches compare favorably to a .321 average against the fastball, but an increased mix should help the four-seamer next season.
The 26-year-old appears destined to return to the rotation barring a major regression or injury next spring. His ceiling likely checks in as a mid-rotation starter on a playoff team—we already know he can beat the Astros—and the Orioles certainly have a need for that.
Tomorrow: Austin Hays