Modeling his game after greats, Enrique Bradfield Jr. knows his style well

There may be few players that know their game and understand the strengths they need to play to during a baseball game more than O’s outfield prospect Enrique Bradfield Jr.

He has blazing speed – scouts say it's a top-of-scale 80 scouting grade – but little power to this point. He knows the style of game he needs to play and it’s similar to what we might call an old-school leadoff hitter. One that needs to make a lot of contact, often keep the ball out of the air and use his legs to make things happen.

Bradfield was the Orioles' top draft pick last summer, taken No. 17 overall out of Vanderbilt, where he stole 130 bases with a 91 percent success rate in three seasons.

For quite a while now, Bradfield has known he’s the fastest player on most baseball fields. He has elite speed.

“I would say it was about when I was 10 or 11 that I started to really recognize that,” he said in a recent interview in Sarasota at Twin Lakes Park. “It’s always been a part of who I am, but I wouldn’t say it’s everything to what I do. I was gifted a beautiful gift from God and at the same time too I have worked very hard to get to where I am at. And also, there are other factors like a support system with my family, my parents, my sister and countless coaches I could name that all have impacted me.”

An elite runner and defender in center field, in his first pro season in 2023 Bradfield excelled after the draft. He played three games in the Florida Complex League, 17 with Low-A Delmarva and five with High-A Aberdeen. He had just three extra-base hits – all doubles – in 110 plate appearances. But he also hit .291/.473/.329/.802 with 26 walks to 16 strikeouts and he stole 25 bases in 27 attempts.

Elite contact rates and blazing speed showed the way.

He is a player who has modeled his game after past and present players who made it happen on the bases.

“There are a lot of people I look at from past years and also some that are playing now that I have thought I’d like to model my game after,” he said. “I’d say when I can watch Kenny Lofton or a guy like Rickey (Henderson) who had tremendous speed. Another player like that would be Juan Pierre, who I have gotten to know and build a relationship with. He’s been awesome in our conversations. And I look at a guy playing right now, and I look at a Corbin Carroll and I love his style of play. What he brings to the game with his speed, bat and defense, I think it’s very complete. For someone like me, I look at a guy like him and that is kind of what I envision for myself.”

Bradfield picked a good list of players to try and emulate. Henderson stole 100 bases three times and is the all-time leader by a mile with 1,406 steals. Lofton, 15th all-time in steals, won five stolen bases titles and four Gold Gloves. Pierre, No. 18 all-time, stole 50 bases five times. Carroll was the unanimous 2023 National League Rookie of the Year with 54 steals and an .868 OPS.

As he noted, he has a friendship going with Pierre.

“South Florida, he lives there, and I am from down there. I’ve had great conversations with him about what it’s like being a smaller guy in this game, being a speedier guy. We have to do other things and it’s figuring out how to be yourself through all this. To not deviate to try and be someone you are not,” said Bradfield, 22.

Bradfield, who will play with other O’s prospects on Thursday night in the Spring Breakout game, is ranked as the club’s No. 6 prospect by and No. 7 via Baseball America. The Athletic ranked him No. 64 in its top 100 and he was No. 94 on the top 100 list.

The Orioles saw Bradfield’s elite speed get them a run in their second spring training game on Feb. 25. He beat out an infield hit up the middle against Pittsburgh and forced their shortstop to rush a throw, he made an error and a run scored on the play.

“Put pressure on the other team to make the play,” said Bradfield. “You can do that a lot of ways and for me it’s with my speed that allows me to put pressure on the defense. Do whatever I can in that moment to help the team.”

Bradfield, who played at American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla. before three years at Vandy, said he loved his first season on the O’s farm.

“Definitely enjoyed the open lines of communication from staff to players, I feel comfortable enough to take anything to them to express how I’m feeling and what I’m working on. It’s really family oriented. I came from a high school that was the same way, a university that was the same way. So now being part of an organization in professional ball that is similar has been a great experience for me,” he said.

In a way it is a credit to Bradfield that, without much current pop in his bat, he could become the No. 17 player taken in the MLB Draft. While other players are concerned with power and launch angles, he looks at things differently.

“I look at angles, but my angles are a little different than most guys,” he said. “The lower flights are going to benefit me. I’m going to run into some baseballs that will get hit at a higher angle and those are going to be good every once in a while.”

While we may eventually see more pop develop for Bradfield, for now he is content to play to his strengths. And to play the game that got him this far.

“That’s who I am. That’s who I am,” he said twice, almost for further emphasis. “I’m going to get bigger and get stronger. But I feel like when that time comes, it’s going to happen naturally. I’m not going to try and force anything.

"Just going to do my best to prepare the best I can. I’m not where I want to be, and I think everyone can say that about where they are. If you are content where you are at right now, you are not really motivated or driven to achieve anything. I feel like I haven’t really achieved much, even though I know I have. I have built a great resume, but I know there is more, there are bigger things. I am taking the days to get ready and not rushing the process.

“The O’s have empowered me to have confidence in myself to be myself. That is definitely very comforting," Bradfield said. 




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