This article is part of the Know Your Orioles 40-man series, which features an article about each of the 38 players currently on the Orioles roster. There will be one every weekday until we run out of players.
For years, the Orioles were the organization that pitching prospects went to see their lofty aspirations turn to dust. But the Mike Elias regime is doing what it can to flip that narrative on its head, not only by developing their own players but by improving arms that come from other organizations. To this point, there may be no bigger success story than Kyle Bradish.
Bradish was part of a four-player package that the O’s landed on December 4, 2019 in exchange for Dylan Bundy. At the time, scouts liked his ability to deceive hitters with a unique delivery that produced a low-90s fastball along with a power curve and a few other subpar offerings. His lone season in the Angels system saw him strike out 120 and walk 53 over 101 innings at High-A. The walk numbers were a concern, and it meant his future could be as a bullpen arm.
The Orioles have kept him as a starter, and it has paid huge dividends. The loss of the 2020 minor league season due to the pandemic meant that 2021 was the first time we saw Bradish in game action with the organization. He pitched at two levels, three games in Double-A Bowie and then 21 more with Triple-A Norfolk. His strikeout mark jumped to 131 while he reduced his walks to 44 over 100.1 total innings.
That spike in strikes came with more velo. Bradish now sits 94-96 during starts. That is where he used to peak. He tops out at 97 now, according to FanGraphs. He still has his good curve, and his slider is a weapon as well while he has the ability to add in a changeup on occasion as well.
Bradish is now universally viewed as a top 10 prospect within the Orioles organization. MLB Pipeline ranks him 8th while FanGraphs bumped him up to 7th. Both publications have him as the club’s third-best young hurler behind Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall. That is quite the ascent for someone that was on the fringes of those sorts of lists when he first entered the organization just over two years ago.
That said, there is a gap between Rodriguez/Hall and Bradish that we should understand when setting expectations. The FanGraphs wrap-up on the O’s prospects sums it up well:
Nobody is going to call Bradish precise, and he tends to rack up high pitch counts, but he’s cut down the walks enough to project as a five-and-dive type of starter who just out-stuffs opposing hitters on the right day.
It isn’t old school, and it doesn’t sound like the makings of an ace. But man, getting five solid innings from a starter would be a dream for the Orioles who often struggled to get their pitchers through a lineup one full time in 2021.
Barring injury, Bradish is going to pitch in the big leagues sometime in 2022. But the Orioles have been protective of their young arms, often limiting their innings or pulling them early due to high pitch counts. Bradish has just over 200 total professional innings under his belt to this point. In all likelihood, that total is not going to jump to 160 in the upcoming season.
End of season prediction: Bradish should not have to wait until September to make his big league debut. It will come earlier than that, perhaps in a spot start scenario that sees him head back to Norfolk afterwards as a method to watch his pitch count with a good chance to return to the show later on.
But unless the Orioles really want to get aggressive, Bradish feels like a candidate to get shut down after a set number of total innings to advance his development and set him up to open the 2023 season as a member of Baltimore’s rotation.
Tomorrow: Rylan Bannon