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Taj Bradley Shows Marked Improvement



The Rays have been talking a lot this summer about righthander Taj Bradley, the 2018 fifth-rounder from Redan High in Stone Mountain, Ga., who has put together an impressive first full pro season at the Class A levels.

But the best indication of how the 20-year-old Bradley has emerged was the number of times his name came up in conversations with other teams that were asking about him leading up to the July 30 trade deadline.

After pitching in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2018 and the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2019, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Bradley spent the 2020 shutdown at home in Georgia but continued to work hard at his game.

That improvement showed when he reported to instructional league last fall.

Even more so this season.

“He's just shown a lot of growth and maturity really in all facets of his game,’’ Rays vice president of player development and international scouting Carlos Rodriguez said. “From making a lot of the delivery improvements, to just being able to slow the game down, controlling and repeating his delivery.

"And his stuff has been really explosive. He made a lot of progress as well with his breaking ball—shortened it, tightened it.’’

That showed when he started the season at Low-A Charleston, going 9-3, 1.76 with 81 strikeouts in 66.2 innings over 15 games (14 starts). And he continued to pitch well after a promotion to High-A Bowling Green, recording a 2.20 ERA through six starts with 35 strikeouts and eight walks in 28.2 innings.

Credit goes to Bradley for the work he continued to do—including during the shutdown, when he took advantage of the outreach offered by the minor league coaches—as well as the Rays staff for identifying and developing him.

“It's a great job by our scouting group,’’ Rodriguez said. “You talk about projection—(he's) a really great athlete, tremendous makeup, awesome human being and guy who had really good components coming in, the type of athletes that our pitching guys and our player development system really enjoy working with."

COOL RAYS

— Outfielder Josh Lowe became the first player to have 20 homers and 20 stolen bases at Triple-A Durham since Justin Ruggiano in 2007.

— After pitching parts of 2019 and 2020 with the Rays and being traded to the Angels, righthander Aaron Slegers rejoined the Rays organization, signing a two-year minor league deal that includes an invitation to big league spring training in 2022.

Shane Baz Julioaguilargetty

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