The Orioles’ 2023 draft was not the 2022 draft. The big-league team being no longer bad, there was no more No. 1 pick and no Jackson Holliday. But that didn’t mean there was no fun to be had in the back half of the first round. With the 17th pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, the Orioles selected Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr.
Bradfield Jr. did not have the 1:1 star power of Adley Rutschman or Jackson Holliday. But he’s just the type Mike Elias’s people like: an elite glove at a premium position, lots of speed, good contact skills, some (not much) pop, a lefty. In three years at Vandy, the speedster had more walks than strikeouts (with just a 12% chase rate), and was 130 of 143 in steals, including a perfect 46 for 46 as a sophomore. He was a youth teammate of Coby Mayo, too.
Keith Law’s scouting report saw Bradfield Jr. as potential future big-league material:
Bradfield brings two elite tools to the table – he’s an 80 runner and at least a 70 defender in center, maybe an 80, thanks to that speed and very good reads on balls off the bat. He’s stolen 129 bases in three seasons with the Commodores, through the end of this year’s regular season, with just 13 times caught stealing, none as a sophomore when he was a perfect 46 of 46
There were knocks against: his junior year numbers weren’t wow for the college level (.279/.410/.429 in 62 games). He’d lost some production at the plate that year (.410 OBP v. .451 in 2022). And, noted Law, he has “a swing that needs a ton of help,” adding, “It’s a wonder he hits as well as he does, but (this) opens up a world of possibilities for improvement.”
But he had no seeming problems adjusting to pro ball. On August 7, after just three Florida Complex League games, the Orioles announced they were moving Bradfield Jr. to Low-A Delmarva, along with fellow 2023 draft picks Mac Horvath, Matthew Etzel, Tavian Josenberger and Jalen Vasquez.
That, too, went well. In 17 games with the Shorebirds, Bradfield Jr. walked more than once per game, and he hit .302 with a .494 OBP and an .834 OPS. By September 3, the Orioles had called him up to High-A Aberdeen, where he’d play five games before the end of the season.
You still won’t mistake him for a slugger, with his .340 slugging and two extra-base hits for Delmarva. Baseball America writes that the 6’1, 170-lb. outfielder “has a tool set and style of play that would have fit perfectly in the 1980s.” But so far he’s making it work for him.
We did mention he was fast, yes? In his early days as a pro ballplayer, Bradfield Jr. showed no signs of slowing down (literally). He stole a base per game in the FCL, topped that at Delmarva (20 in 17 games), and added four more in five games with Aberdeen.
Here he is, stealing an easy bag. The speed pops. Almost too easy.
Incredible angle that shows just how fast Enrique Bradfield Jr is. Kid is electric. pic.twitter.com/De9xdhgaaI— Zach Bollinger (@zachbollinger18) September 7, 2023
Here he is, scoring from second on a bunt single. The first baseman bobbles the ball but I think Bradfield Jr. scores anyway. Fun stuff.
It’s a little early to see what the Orioles do with Bradfield Jr.’s swing. Now the Birds’ No. 8 prospect, MLB Pipeline gives him an 80 grade in speed, a 50 for his hit tool, 40 for power, 40 for his arm, and 70 for fielding.
Hopefully Keith Law is right about Bradfield Jr. having the makings of a future major leaguer. His speed and defense keep eliciting comparisons to five-time stolen base leader and three-time Gold Glover Kenny Lofton, and he is flat-out disruptive on the basepaths. He’s worked on a flat swing designed for contact. And he’s an excellent bunter.
MLB Pipeline projects Bradfield Jr. to arrive in the big leagues in 2026, enough time for the Orioles to figure out what to do with the outfield logjam of Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander, in addition to OF prospects Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Kyle Stowers and others.
Bradfield Jr. has shown that he can hit Low-A pitching, so it’ll be important to see what he can do against stiffer competition in 2024.
2023 prospect reviews: Alex Pham/Trace Bright, Billy Cook/John Rhodes, International Prospects, Carter Baumler/Seth Johnson, Creed Willems, Justin Armbruester, Max Wagner, Jud Fabian, Mac Horvath, Cade Povich, Chayce McDermott, Dylan Beavers
Thursday: Connor Norby