When spring training opened up for the Orioles, one of the big storylines is that it seemed like there was a large competition to make it into the starting rotation. Some of the candidates who didn’t have guaranteed spots have looked like they should get a shot. Others have not looked that way. Kyle Bradish, an incumbent in the sense that he made 23 starts for the O’s last season, is in among those who seem to be moving towards a spot.
All spring training results must be taken with a grain of salt. The earlier in spring training they are, you might need more than one grain. My philosophy with this kind of thing is that I’d rather have meaningless statistics that are so good that you have to pump the brakes before getting too excited, than having ones that are bad and you have to explain away why it doesn’t matter yet.
Bradish is one of two Orioles starters who’s appeared in three organized games. The other is Grayson Rodriguez, whose potential remains exciting but whose meaningless spring results are not in the “pump the brakes because they’re so good” group. Bradish, on the other hand, is. In his nine innings over three games, he’s struck out twelve batters, and walked just two while allowing four hits. That included four innings on Friday night where he only allowed one home run in a four inning start.
One of those things you hear about every spring that’s starting to approach the classic “best shape of my life” cliche is about pitchers who’ve spent the offseason sharpening up their pitches. Maybe they went to Driveline Baseball and added velocity, maybe they went somewhere else. For Bradish and teammate Dean Kremer, they trained together, as The Baltimore Sun’s Nathan Ruiz wrote. Each has looked good in his limited spring action. Kremer is now off to the World Baseball Classic, where he pitched well yesterday in four innings as Israel beat Nicaragua.
If that duo really achieved a breakthrough together and carries that over into the regular season, the 2023 Orioles are going to have a nice boost towards going somewhere interesting in the standings. For now, there is only spring training hype, and it only matters so much. But Bradish looks good so far and he doesn’t have to continue that for long in order to carry it into the regular season.
- ZiPS: 24 GS, 117 IP, 1.40 WHIP, 4.69 ERA, 4.35 FIP
- Steamer: 26 GS, 146 IP, 1.32 WHIP, 4.12 ERA, 4.12 FIP (both from FanGraphs)
- Marcel: 119 IP, 4.39 ERA, 1.32 WHIP (from Baseball Reference)
The two FG-based projections are interesting to me because I think the line for success and failure for Bradish is somewhere between those two. If he finishes the year with a 4.12 ERA or better, I’ll be happy with that. He’ll look like a back-end option heading into the near future. The Orioles developing a back-end guy rather than having to sign one as a free agent would be fantastic. The previous front office regime never managed to either develop one, trade for one, or sign a successful starting pitching free agent after 2012.
If Bradish ends up more like ZiPS and he then has two big league seasons with a career ERA of like 4.80, that won’t feel like someone the Orioles should keep around in the rotation as the team hopefully continues improving. There will be better options soon, or at least we hope there will be.
The case for the over
Bradish made 12 starts at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and managed to give up ten home runs to right-handed batters. Do you know how hard a right-handed pitcher has to work at serving up meatballs to give up that many homers to righty batters now? It’s substantial. Bradish doesn’t even have sustained Triple-A success going for him in his track record; he had a 4.26 ERA and 1.431 ERA in 21 games at that level two years ago. If he pitches about the same as he did last year, he’ll go over the projection.
The case for the under
Thinking that Bradish will outperform this projection means hanging on to one thing and hoping it’s solid. After the All-Star break last year, Bradish was a much better pitcher. In 13 second half games, he held opposing batters to just a .607 OPS (.967 in the first half) and pitched to a 3.28 ERA.
That’s probably not the whole story of what kind of pitcher he’ll be in 2023, but it does at least plausibly fit into a “pitcher got blasted, made adjustments and once they clicked, he was improved.” If he convinces the Orioles that’s the case during spring training, he should easily be in the Opening Day rotation and if he proves it’s the case in the regular season, he should stay there.
Are you a believer in Bradish’s potential for this year or do you share the pessimism of the ZiPS projection? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to vote in the poll too so you can tell everyone how right you were at season’s end.
Will Kyle Bradish go over or under his ZiPS projected ERA of 4.69?
This poll is closed