All American Game : : Story
Monday, April 30, 2012

Bradley, baseball a perfect fit

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It was only 13 months ago when Archie Bradley, the Oklahoma high school golden boy with the golden right arm capable of throwing fastballs 95 mph and tight spirals 60 to 70 yards downfield, spoke to Perfect Game with a hint of exasperation in his voice.

It’s just a constant mind-battle for me every day. I change my mind every day on what I think I’m going to do,” Bradley said in late March, 2011. “In the end, what it comes down to is what’s really best for me. Me and my family have started to put a plan together of pros and cons, and possible scenarios of things that can happen and which route we will choose.

We’re trying to collect the most information we can from anyone that can give us some little bit of advice that we think is worth something, and put it all into one and hopefully make the best decision.”

Bradley, then a senior at Broken Arrow (Okla.) High School, was ranked the nation’s No. 4 overall baseball prospect – and No. 2 right-handed pitcher behind fellow Oklahoman and good friend Dylan Bundy – and was certain to be a high first round selection in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He was also a 6-foot-4, 210-pound top quarterback prospect that had signed a national letter-of-intent with Coach Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners. Head coach Sunny Golloway was also poised to welcome him into the Sooners’ baseball program.

As expected, Bradley was snapped up with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 draft, by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He ultimately chose the D-backs over the Sooners, agreeing to a reported $5 million deal just minutes in front of an Aug. 15 signing deadline.

Today Bradley – now a 6-4, 225-pound 19-year-old – is on the roster of the South Bend Silver Hawks, Arizona’s Class A affiliate in the Midwest League (MWL). He certainly seemed to be happy with his station in life as he spoke from Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium on April 26, a day before he was scheduled to make his fifth start of the season in a MWL game against the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Class A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.

I feel like I’m in a real good place right now,” Bradley said with a contented smile on his face. “The biggest thing I’ve done so far is to not worry about moving up; I’m not worried about how fast (the D-Backs) move me. I’m here to learn things and to get better each outing and develop my change and throw it with command and consistency. The team is going to move me when they feel I’m ready to go so I’m just having fun playing baseball.”

Bradley is ranked by PG as the No. 2 minor league prospect in the D-backs organization, behind only right-hander Trevor Bauer, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft. After five Midwest League starts, Bradley stood 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 30 strikeouts and 14 walks in 26 innings. He retired the first 15 batters he faced in his Friday start against Cedar Rapids but got the hook after walking the first three batters he faced in the sixth.

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of getting the pro routine down – throwing every fifth day, learning how my body reacts to that and just the different things you need to do, the way you eat, the way you sleep – just the way you prepare for each start,” he said on Thursday.

Silver Hawks pitching coach Wellington Cepeda, who pitched for five seasons in the D-backs organization, has been impressed with Bradley in the short time he has been working with him.

So far I’m seeing great things. I think this kid is going in the right direction,” Cepeda told Perfect Game. “Stuff-wise, he’s got three big league pitches right now. His fastball is big-time above average and he has that power curveball with command, which you don’t see (often) with a 19-year-old kid; he’s able to throw it with any count. His changeup is a work in progress right now but I think in the future it’s going to be a great pitch for him.”

Bradley started his high school career at Muskogee (Okla.) High School but transferred to Broken Arrow before his junior year. He led Broken Arrow to the Class 6A State Championship his senior season when he finished 12-1 and allowed only three earned runs and struck out 133 (with 11 walks) in 71 1/3 innings. He also passed for more than 3,600 yards and 45 touchdowns in two seasons as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.

Bradley played in three PG WWBA tournaments while in high school, including the 2008 PG WWBA World Championship as a member of the Royals Baseball Club. But his crowning achievement was being selected to play in the 2010 Aflac All-American Game at PETCO Park in San Diego. It was at the All-American Game where Bradley’s fastball was first gunned at 95 mph.

I look back on the Aflac Game as one of the best things I’ve been a part of as far as baseball goes. Half of those guys I still keep in contact with,” he said. “Everything Perfect Game has done for me has benefitted me – (PG has) been a class act, it’s been well-run and I’d recommend it to anyone.”

The two rosters at 2010 PG/Aflac All-American Game were overflowing with top-ranked prospects. There were six future first round draft selections on each of the East and West teams’ rosters, including Bradley. His West Team teammates included his old buddy Bundy (Orioles, 4
th overall), Joe Ross (Padres, 25th), Blake Swihart (Red Sox, 26th), Robert Stephenson (Giants, 27th), Henry Owens (Red Sox, 36th comp) and Travis Harrison (Twins, 50th comp).  Six other future first-rounders dotted the East Team roster.

Bradley said that he and All-American Shawon Dunston Jr. (Cubs, 11
th round) are planning on living and working out together in Arizona during the upcoming offseason. He also mentioned ’10 All-Americans Matthew Dean (Blue Jays, 13th round), Dillon Maples (Cubs, 14th round) and Austin Hedges (Padres, 2nd round) as just a few of the guys with whom he remains in touch.

I could name all of them,” he said. “We still talk, we still keep in touch, and those are experiences you can’t get just playing regular travel ball.”

And, of course, he talks with Bundy the most frequently. Bundy is enjoying a tremendous inaugural professional season with the Delmarva (Md.) Shorebirds of the Class A South Atlantic League; he didn’t allow a hit or a run and struck out 21 batters in his first 13 innings of work in the Sally League.

We talk to each other probably about once a week after we throw,” Bradley said. “We’ve done a good job of keeping in touch with each other.”

Playing professionally has been – and will continue to be – a learning experience for Bradley. His days spent as a PG/Aflac All-American notwithstanding, the minor leagues are a whole different ballgame from what he experienced in the Oklahoma high school ranks.

You just have to take into account that everyone can hit a fastball now. Whether you’re throwing it 90 or 98 it doesn’t matter; everyone can hit a fastball,” Bradley said. “It’s pro ball now so you have to start understanding counts, when to throw certain pitches, when to throw a ball up in the zone and when to throw it down. … Learn what hitters’ weaknesses are and start throwing to those rather than just raring back and trying to throw a fastball by a guy.”

And like he said previously, Bradley feels like he is settling into a routine of professional pitcher.

It’s not throwing every fifth day; it’s the work in between that’s the hardest thing to adjust to,” he said. “In high school, you go from pitching to playing a position the next day, and you might not throw for seven days after that. It’s just learning how to prepare your arm … (and) your throwing program and things like that to where you know when you go out that fifth day you’re fresh and ready to go.”

Cepeda said what Bradley needs more than anything right now is innings on the mound. Just by going out and pitching every fifth day, Bradley will learn how to better control the opposing team’s running game and how to better field his position. He can also continue to work on improving his changeup.

I think he’s going to get better,” Cepeda said. “He asks a lot of questions, which is good, because I think you learn from that. He asks me (questions), and he even asks the hitting coaches about hitters and what they expect in different situations and with different counts. He’s still learning about his stuff but he’s coming around.”

That’s a sentiment Bradley readily shares.

Overall, as far as managing the game, throwing against hitters and being in good situations, I’ve felt very comfortable and I’ve felt very confident in what I’ve been able to do,” he said. “Hopefully I can keep that going.”

Perfect Game scouting report (Ben Collman):

Bradley was sharp Friday night in cold, damp conditions in Cedar Rapids. He carried a perfect game through five innings and was lifted after walking the first three in the sixth. He struck out four and allowed two earned runs, both scoring after he departed, to lower his ERA to 2.08 on the year. For the season he has allowed just 8 hits and has issued 14 walks with 30 strikeouts in 26 innings.

Big and strong, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Bradley was an Oklahoma quarterback commit before signing as the seventh overall pick in 2011. He has reached the upper-90s in the past with his fastball and worked 92-94 Friday night, pounding the bottom half of the zone. His fastball showed late sink and life and the Cedar Rapids Kernels made very little solid contact against it. His second plus offering is an 81-83 mph curveball with very hard spin and sharp late break. It shows depth and tilt and Bradley has a very good feel for the pitch. He also flashed a straight changeup at 84-86 with late run to the armside. He maintains his arm speed well on the pitch. Bradley is athletic, repeats his delivery and gets lots of extension out front with a very long stride. That coupled with his fantastic arm speed makes his 92-94 appear even harder and makes his fastball plus-plus when it sits 95-97.

Copyright 1994-2018 by Perfect Game. All rights reserved. No portion of this information may be reprinted or reproduced without the written consent of Perfect Game.