D-backs' Bradley Embraces Lofty Expectations
GENEVA, Ill.—Archie Bradley
spent a little time in Chicago with his family the day after the Midwest League all-star game.
It was an opportunity for the young pitcher to take a break from the game and get a breather from the expectations that rest on his shoulders, expectations that are as high as the buildings that seem to scrape the sky in the Windy City.
The interesting thing is that Bradley, in his first season with the low Class A South Bend Silver Hawks, doesn't really mind being in the spotlight. The down-to-earth rising star has learned to embrace it.
"It's a good thing to have high expectations. I expect a lot from myself and hold myself to high standards," Bradley said. "I know the (Diamondbacks) organization expects a lot out of me, too. If there weren't expectations. I would be doing something wrong."
Bradley, 19, could've headed to Oklahoma to play quarterback for the Sooners after a stellar career at Broken Arrow (Okla.) High. It was either that or sign with the Diamondbacks, who took him with the seventh pick in the 2011 draft.
He drew plenty of attention at the team's instructional league camp and impressed more than his fair share of scouts from other organizations.
Of course, he had no choice but to be impressive. After all, the Diamondbacks signed him with a $5 million bonus, which happened to be a franchise record for a drafted pitcher.
Some might assume taking the money to play pro baseball was a no-brainer for Bradley. He admits, though, deciding on which route to go after high school was anything but easy.
"It was a very tough decision to make. People just think you are going to take the money, but I put a lot of thought into my decision," Bradley said. "I love the game of football and I thought a lot about playing it at the college level. I talked with my family and looked at the pros and cons of both options. At the end of the day, I knew playing baseball was the best decision."
So far, it has turned out to be a good decision for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound righthander.
Bradley was 7-5, 3.97 through 17 starts for South Bend. His win total at the all-star break was the highest on the team. He had given up 41 runs on 46 hits in those 17 starts and had registered a team-high 79 strikeouts over 81 2/3 innings.
A year ago, he saw action in two games with Rookie-level Missoula late in the season after signing close to the August deadline, giving up one hit and striking out four in two innings of work.
South Bend pitching coach Wellington Cepeda doesn't hesitate to point to the potential Bradley has been blessed with.
"The kid has big-time potential," Cepeda said. "He has the ability to one day be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter in Major League Baseball. He has been very good for us. He has some issues with walks, but that comes with the territory of adjusting to the game at this level. It's a lot different than high school."
Walks have indeed been Bradley's biggest obstacle. He was second among all Midwest League starters with a .163 opponent average, but his ERA was inflated by a league-high 57 walks. Yet, Bradley is willing to work on improving his game, and the fact that he possesses the pitches he needs to move up the ladder is a bonus.
"He has three big league pitches. His fastball is very good, he has a great curveball and his changeup is coming along nicely," Cepeda said. "He is still working on the little things like controlling the running game, getting better command of his pitches and continuing to work at the fundamentals.
"He is headed in the right direction and he will only get better."
Rise To The Occaision
The fact that Bradley has been able to shine on a bigger stage is hardly a surprise. He had big-time potential written all over him when he was in high school.
Just consider what he did during his senior season at Broken Arrow. In the 6A state championship game against Owasso, the top-ranked team in the state, Bradley threw seven shutout innings in a 4-0 victory.
He consistently threw in the mid-90s during the game and even hit 101 mph at one point during the game.
All Owasso could do was manage two hits against him and become frustrated with watching 14 batters strike out. Its 33-game win streak was halted and its hope for a ninth title in 14 years was crushed by Bradley's jaw-dropping performance.
Bradley is smart enough to know, though, that not every performance in his career will be as dominating. In pro ball, there are a lot of tough days mixed in with the good ones.
Bradley, however, is taking it all in stride.
"You aren't going to be great every time you pitch," he said. "There are going to be nights where you get hit around and your pitches aren't working. I know this isn't the same as high school, but you just have to trust yourself and continue to work hard. As long as I do that, I'll be fine."
The opportunity to play in the Midwest League all-star game has been one of the highlights of his season. He only made a brief appearance in the game, pitching one inning, but he enjoyed the experience.
"It was very humbling to be picked as an all-star," Bradley said. "The opportunity to be around all of those great players was a lot of fun. I had a great time."
Yet, he knows there are more big moments to come if he continues to stay on track. He knows consistency and a drive to work hard are the keys to ultimately pitching in a major league stadium.
"I've been blessed with the talent to play baseball and I have always dreamed of making it to the show," Bradley said. "Nothing has been handed to me. I've worked my butt off to get to where I am and I know I have the ability to make it as a pro. I just have to keep at it and things will work out."
Brian Lester is a freelance writer based in Findlay, Ohio