Archie Bradley has been making waves this month after transitioning from a rather ordinary spring. Is his reborn again bullpen arm worth investing into, or should fantasy baseball owners still be wary?
So, Archie Bradley is a thing again and fantasy baseball owners are skeptical. This time he’s throwing his name into the hat of “pitchers you kind of, maybe want to own” and it looks like he means business.
As if finding a dependable relief pitcher hasn’t been hard enough this season, now we’ve got guys like Bradley to worry about. Former starting pitcher turned bullpen guy, Bradley has finally turned the corner in his problematic three-year career. He is quickly becoming a guy that might hold some fantasy relevance if he stays on track.
Unlike a lot of these bullpen nobodies that you’re being told to own every day, Bradley is one you should be familiar with. He was a highly touted prospect in the Diamondbacks system and was thought of as a future ace before the wheels fell off last year. He finished his rookie season with a 5.02 ERA last year and a whole bunch of doubt surrounding his command. Now, he looks like he’s righted the ship after a convincing first few weeks of the season.
Instead of flooding your head with Bradley’s stats and discussing what his ceiling might be, I’ve decided to compare him to the 2014 Kansas City Royals version of Wade Davis. The reason? Davis was in the depths of despair that year, fresh off a lousy 2013 season as he too transitioned from a starting role into the bullpen, so Bradley is in the same boat. Both of these guys also throw a mighty four-seam fastball, so this just works.
Bradley: Bradley’s ERA last year clearly highlights his command troubles, so we’ll focus on the right here and now. Through 11.1 IP Bradley has a big fat ERA of 0.79. He’s allowed only seven hits all season and has faced some pretty potent hitting through early April.
The tail end of Bradley’s success is in part due to his rejuvenated curveball that he’s thrown 18.98% of the time this month, a pitch that he once struggled with. Bradley also has an impressive five strikeouts with men on base and is finally in the midst of a healthy season.
The Diamondbacks have trusted Bradley with the lead in two games so far this year – the fact that Arizona’s defense has committed 15 errors already makes Bradley’s numbers all the more impressive.
Davis: Davis finished 2014 with a 1.00 ERA, a season after surrendering 169 hits and 15 HR’s in his final season as the Royals’ starter. Shifting to the pen, Davis did not allow a home run in 71 games and finished with a career-low ISO against of 0.138. Davis was pretty much unhittable, he allowed only eight runs all season, and since he left 87.5% of his runners on base, it’s not hard to see why.
Bradley: The seventh inning of Friday’s game against the Dodgers proved to be the most adventurous outing for Bradley so far. He gave up his first HR of the year to Chris Taylor, only to allow Corey Seager and Justin Turner to reach base moments later. Bradley emerged from the inning relatively unscathed after a lucky double play and went on to pitch a flawless eighth inning on his way to his first win.
Bradley’s WHIP currently sits at a tidy 0.86, but his .227 BABIP may be a sign of a potential rise in the future.
Davis: Davis finished 2014 with a 0.85 WHIP, well below the league average. Funnily enough his .264 BABIP was unusually high, however, he limited free passes (walks) to an incredibly low rate of 2.88%. Davis was tied for the second-lowest walk total in the Majors during 2014, among the likes of Zach Britton and Jeanmar Gomez. His 47.6% ground ball rate can also be attributed to the 38 hits he allowed all year. Through April Davis gave up only six hits and only seven walks – eerily similar numbers to those of Bradley’s so far.
Bradley: If your league recognizes IP as a scoring category, Bradley is beautiful to own. His time as a starter means he has the longevity to pitch three or four innings, and like he did against the Dodgers, earn a win if the starter fails to last the journey. Bradley pitched 141.2 innings in total last season, going as deep as the seventh inning on five occasions. On April 4th he pitched 3.1 innings against the Giants, and with a more finely tuned repertoire, manager Torey Lovullo can rely on Archer to close games from the sixth inning onwards if needed.
Davis: Davis has never been a multi-inning guy unless Joe Maddon has plans otherwise. As a bullpen arm, he’s always been brought in to simply get the job done and leave, which he did in 2014 throwing a total of 72 innings and allowing a crazy low .151 AVG against. Davis has had some injury concerns, especially during August of last year, but that’s expected for a 31-year-old pitcher.
Bradley: Bradley could easily be one of the best contributors to the K category this year. Through his five games this season, he has a red-hot 30.6% strikeout rate. Bradley also has remarkably struck out five batters so far when behind 2-1 in the count. His four-seamer is generating a swing percentage of 50.63%, and his curveball features elements of a slider and is causing havoc for hitters.
There might be better strikeout options available on your waiver wire, but Bradley is at his best when he’s given a long leash and allowed to deal his pitches without having to worry about the pitch count.
Davis: 2014 was an extraordinary year for Davis for a number of reasons. The biggest? He nearly matched his 2013 strikeout total (114) in 67 fewer innings as a relief pitcher. Davis went on to finish that season with 109 strikeouts and a 15.89 whiff percentage on his four-seam fastball. It was also the year he had his lowest contact rate of 69.1%.
Bradley: When Bradley was meant to be a starter his fastball was sitting at around 94 MPH. This season it has jumped up to 96 MPH and looks locked in with greater command. The fastball used to be Bradley’s preferred pitch, but he’s mixed his curveball and cutter in a lot more to start the season.
Davis: If you were every wondering why the Cubs paid big to acquire Davis, it’s this: his pitches haven’t lost a beat. In 2014 Davis’ fastball was sitting at 95mph, along with his changeup and slider, which are hardly used anymore. His fastball has always been a rising pitch, making it hard to hit, and his cutter has been responsible for many ground balls during his seven-year career.
While this comparison wasn’t meant to say that Bradley is the next Davis, there is nothing to say that he isn’t capable of the very same numbers. Bradley’s sample size this season may be small, but he’s looked like a disciplined reliever in line for a bounce back year. Bradley’s flaws are, and always have been, to do with command. The Diamondbacks shoddy defense may also play a factor in his overall numbers. Though, Bradley’s weapons compare nicely to Davis’, making him worth an add in a standard league while he continues to show dominance.