Diamondbacks Archie Bradley: Top-20 reliever in 2018?

The Diamondbacks pitching staff was a big component of their 2017 success. Can relief pitcher Archie Bradley make it to the top-20 this season?

The Arizona Diamondbacks were a great success story during the 2017 season. One was the weird season of Fernando Rodney. Another was the dominant season relief pitcher Archie Bradley posted. With news of him remaining in the bullpen for at least another season, how high can he rank?

Bradley made his debut as a starting pitcher but it didn’t go well. In 177.1 innings between 2015 and 2016, he posted a 5.18 ERA, 1.573 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and 10-12 record.

Instead of sending the 23-year-old back down to the minors, the Diamondbacks decided to make Bradley a relief pitcher and move him into the bullpen. This was a revelation to all because he became a top-50 relief pitcher.

In 73 innings, Bradley finished with a 1.73 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. He had a 47.8 ground ball rate, 29.0 fly ball rate and 7.4 HR/FB rate. The ability to keep the ball on the ground or in the park makes him a valuable relief pitcher.

“We haven’t ruled out closing, but we’ll see what happens as we put the team together”

He went undrafted in ESPN leagues and had an ownership percentage as high as 40 percent. Fantasy baseball has seen a rise in the value of relief pitchers so even the set-up men or middle relievers are getting love.

As a reliever, Bradley had a 10.0 swinging strike rate, 59.0 first-pitch strike rate and 78.8 contact rate. While those numbers aren’t good enough for the top 50, let alone the top 20, Bradley made huge strides on his way to be a top relief option.

The reason I believe in Bradley ending up a top-20 relief pitcher is the possibility of him closing for Arizona. Rodney is a free agent and there are no other relievers capable of taking over the job. Jorge De La Rosa and JJ Hoover are two good middle relievers but they don’t have the peripherals to be a shutdown closer, especially in the National League West.

“We haven’t ruled out closing, but we’ll see what happens as we put the team together,” Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said Tuesday from the General Managers Meetings. “We just want to put him in any situation that he can have an impact on the game.”

While we don’t have a clear-cut answer on what Bradley’s role will be in 2018, the addition of some saves will give him a leg up on some of his contemporaries. I rank him higher than Chris Devenski, AJ Ramos and Dellin Betances to name a few.

Bradley expressed wanting to get back into the starting rotation and I think he will eventually. As of now, though, he is a relief pitcher with the “stuff” to be a top-20 option for fantasy owners. He should finish with a sub-2.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 80 strikeouts. Any saves he gets will be a plus. Bradley will be very valuable as a 23rd-round pick and your No. 5 relief pitcher.