Since the day the Orioles acquired him from the Los Angeles Angels, right-hander Kyle Bradish has seemingly been trending up with his new club. Acquired by the team with three other right-handers for pitcher Dylan Bundy on Dec. 4, 2019, Bradish was rated No. 21 on the Angels top 30 by MLBPipeline.com at the time of the deal.
Now he is in the Orioles’ top 10 and is their third-highest rated pitching prospect following right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and lefty DL Hall. Some in the O’s front office believe when Bradish is at his best, his talent can rival the other two and they are both top 100 pitchers.
That is high praise for the 25-year-old Bradish, now ranked as the club’s No. 8 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 9 via Baseball America.
After a season where he pitched 100 innings on the farm, with almost all of them at Triple-A, he is closing in on making his big league debut. He is expected to be added to the club’s 40-man roster next month ahead of the December Rule 5 draft.
In 2021, Bradish began the year at Double-A Bowie, throwing 13 2/3 scoreless innings in three starts, and he fanned 10 in four innings in what turned out to be his last outing at that level. He moved to Norfolk and went 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA over 86 2/3 innings. He produced a WHIP of 1.431 with a 4.1 walk rate and strikeout rate of 10.9.
But Bradish (no long A, pronounced “Brad-ish”) pitched to a 1.80 ERA in September. And, over his last four Norfolk starts, he allowed two earned runs in 20 innings for an ERA of 0.90 with six walks to 24 strikeouts.
A few days ago, we talked via Zoom in a bi-coastal interview. Bradish lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., in the winter, making for great weather in which to train and ensuring that he works out with players already in the majors and many in the higher levels of the minors in that area.
Between Bowie and Norfolk, he made 24 appearances, going 6-5 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He walked 3.9 per nine with 11.8 strikeouts. His fastball velocity has increased since the trade to sit now in the mid-90s, touching a bit more at its best, and his slider is rated a bit ahead of his curveball, with his changeup a bit behind those two offerings.
“The season, just looking back, I had some hiccups,” Bradish said about his 2021 season. “Throughout the season, it was kind of hit or miss. But overall the season, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Got a nice taste of Triple-A for the majority of the year. Got to face real good competition and met some of the older guys up there to see what it’s all about.”
And then he put together that strong run over the season’s final weeks.
“Just kind of everything came together,” he said. “Got comfortable with both my breaking balls. I was having a little fight with my curveball here and there when I got to Triple-A. Ball is a little different. But, yeah, changeup was really working, too. I focused on that in the second half of the season, getting comfortable with that. And everything came together - body and mind felt really good to finish out the year.”
Ranked in the back end of the O’s top 30 at the time of the trade, now Bradish is among the O’s top 10, and the velocity bump obviously did not hurt that.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Coming out of college, I think I was maybe hitting 96 (mph) at my max, but usually sitting low 90s. In 2019, my first season with the Angels, I don’t know what the deal was, but I was throwing slower than in college. Coming to the Orioles, I got a really good offseason program and then with the COVID shutdown (of 2020) I just really hit the weight room hard. And tried to clean up my mechanics a little bit and it paid off. There were multiple factors (to improve velocity), but having that COVID shutdown kind of gave you an extra offseason. So I tried to run with that and get as much work in as possible. Then cleaning up mechanics was another factor.”
Bradish was a three-year starter at New Mexico State and the Angels drafted him in round four of 2018. He pitched in high Single-A ball in the 2019 season, then made nice strides for the Orioles in 2020 at the alternate camp in Bowie.
I asked for his take on the Orioles pitching program and what they seek from their young pitchers on the farm.
“I think the big thing with why you are seeing the success with younger pitchers is just kind of the overall communication and teamwork throughout the org from the top down,” BRadish said. “Holty (Chris Holt, O’s pitching coach/director of pitching) does a really good job, communicating with the pitchers as well as the pitching coaches throughout the organization. But, yeah, I think the big thing with us is they like us to do what we do (well) and do it often. So they are not trying to change with what we do. I know I’m a little different the way I throw, just from over the top and my fastball has a little cut to it. But they embraced that when I came over, which gave me a confidence boost, and they told me to go out and do me basically.”
Bradish’s over-the-top delivery is unique in the sport today and gives him an edge in that hitters don’t often see such a delivery. He is an outlier simply in how he delivers the baseball.
“My arm slot has kind of always been over the top like that. I think it goes back to me playing football quarterback when I was younger. Made some tweaks in college and kind of took off from there,” he said.
Bradish said he will resume throwing this week in Arizona, so begin a long-toss program and resume throwing bullpens probably in early January. He works out there with some pitchers with big league experience, including Zach Plesac, Sean Doolittle and Drew Smyly.
Barring a real surprise, in the coming weeks, Bradish should find out he will be added to the Orioles 40-man roster and he will begin a run at a big league spot next spring in Sarasota.
“That would be awesome. I’m hoping that does come true. This system has been great to me so hopefully I get added. It would be an honor and makes you want to work even harder,” he said.
Check out the full Zoom interview here with Bradish: