Archie Bradley has had a rollercoaster on the way to his current position as a dominant setup man, to say the least. Drafted in the First Round in the 2011 First Year Player’s Draft, Archie had committed to the University of Oklahoma to both pitch and be a Quarterback. However, thankfully for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he decided to forgo college and signed a professional baseball contract, minutes before the signing deadline. Going into the 2012 season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the 25th best prospect in baseball. He had a great year in 2013, putting up a sparkling 1.84 ERA across Upper A-ball and Double-A. He was showing obvious dominant strikeout potential, putting up 162 strikeouts in 152 innings, but the walks showed he was still raw in the control, posting a 2.35 K/BB Ratio. But nonetheless, this showed the pure stuff that Archie had to offer, and was clearly a top prospect in the Diamondbacks system. After a down 2014 year, he rebounded in 2015 Spring Training to earn a spot on the Opening Day Roster, firmly cementing himself as a top pitching prospect set to break into The Bigs.
2015 proved to be a fateful season for Bradley, as he started the season on fire, out-dueling Clayton Kershaw in his first start, and Madison Bumgarner in his next. He was cruising along with an ERA of 1.45, and while the walks continued to be a problem, he was showing his ability to compete at the Major League level, against top-flight talent. Then came the April 28th game against the Colorado Rockies. In the 2nd inning, Archie delivered the pitch on a 2-0 count to Carlos Gonzalez, who hit a rocket back at him, striking his face, and knocking him unconscious. Archie remained on the ground for about 3 minutes, before finally walking off of the field, with major swelling to his face. He ended up avoiding any major damage, and had a minor injury to his sinus cavity, however the recovery forced a long absence, ruining the momentum that Bradley had gained at the beginning of the season. He never truly gained it back, ending the season with a 5.80 ERA.
He returned in the 2016 season with high hopes, alongside the rest of the optimistic Diamondbacks. Quickly though, just like the rest of the rotation, the wheels fell off. Archie struggled through a year of ups and downs, logging his most innings in the Majors, however also slogging through a 5.10 ERA. The Diamondbacks had fallen exceptionally short of expectations, placing at the bottom of the NL West. He, just like the rest of the team, left the season feeling dejected.
In the offseason there was of course a large overhaul, with Torey Lovullo coming to coach, and Mike Hazen taking over the front office. Coming into the 2017 Spring Training, there appeared to be a renewed energy in the team, with quite a few players coming into camp with something to prove, including the 24 year old out of Muskogee, Oklahoma. He competed for the last rotation spot with Patrick Corbin, ultimately losing the battle, but being retained in a reliever’s role, with the hope of his high velocity and sharp dropping Knuckle-curve being effective in the short inning role. While Corbin has been, shall we say… inconsistent in the rotation, The Beard has excelled in his role. He has posted a 1.23 ERA across 36 2/3rds innings, posting a 6.14 K/BB ratio, the best of his career. He has boasted a plus fastball that has touched 100 MPH on multiple occasions, approaching it regularly. His ability to bridge the the gap into the 9th inning for Fernando Rodney has been excellent, and provides a reliable option if The Archer were to falter. And while Archie maintains that he still wishes to be a starter in the long term, it has been clear that we have a reliable option out of the ‘pen who can electrify a crowd and put down the side in order. A great guy in the clubhouse, and a dominant presence out on the mound, Archie Bradley has developed into a fantastic player for the Arizona Diamondbacks, albeit not what they had probably imagined when they took him with the 7th overall pick in 2011. But his contributions thus far in 2017 are a big part as to why the Diamondbacks are projected to be playing in October. And as his greatness continues, his journey will certainly be a testament to all to fight through adversity. He is still young, I cannot wait to see where his talent takes both him and the Diamondbacks.