The Baltimore Orioles’ rookie starter, Kyle Bradish, has struggled up to this point, but it is too soon for anyone to worry. Take your lumps; it’s ok!
The first relevant promotion of the Baltimore Orioles’ season did not belong to Adley Rutschman, the top prospect in baseball, who was ready last August. It did not belong to Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in the minors, making AAA lineups look like Little Leaguers.
No, the first player GM Mike Elias called up to impact the big league club was….trade acquisition Kyle Bradish. While he is well known to the Baltimore Orioles part of the internet and scouting outlets alike, you would be hard-pressed to find a casual baseball who has heard of Bradish.
A 4th-round pick out of New Mexico State in 2018, Bradish has gone from low-level development arm to Major League starter. The main return from the Los Angeles Angels for Dylan Bundy, Bradish quickly moved up the minor league ranks.
Unlike most players, his stuff flourished at the 2020 alternate site, and he emerged as a legitimate starting pitching prospect. He then began 2021 with 13.2 scoreless innings at Bowie before being promoted to Norfolk.
After a good but unexciting year of 4.67 ball with the Tides, he went back to Harbor Park to begin this season. With O’s fans clamoring to see the next wave of prospects, Bradish needed only three dominant starts to force his hand. He debuted in Baltimore on April 29.
After seven starts and 33 innings with the Baltimore Orioles, Bradish has had uninspiring results. His 6.82 ERA is brutal to look at, especially this season with offense down around the league, and his FIP isn’t much better at 5.45. But his game logs tell a somewhat better story with three solid starts and four clunkers.
Baltimore Orioles: Kyle Bradish is taking his lumps, and that’s ok
He debuted with a quality start against the Boston Red Sox, giving up two runs in six innings and taking a hard-luck loss. He initiated a lot of contact that day with only two strikeouts and one walk while allowing one home run.
He then struggled on May 4 with four runs in four innings against the Minnesota Twins but was bailed out by his offense in a 9-4 win. He struck out three while walking two, hitting a batter, and allowing a long ball.
May 10 was his best start, and it will be tough to beat going forward. He gave up two runs in seven innings against the St. Louis Cardinals with eleven strikeouts and no walks. He allowed one home run on just four hits, his lowest amount of any start, and he earned his first MLB win.
Reaching such a high point led to an inevitable fall, as he took back-to-back-to-back deserved losses in his following three starts. On May 16, he gave up four runs in four and a third innings against the New York Yankees. He struck out six but walked three and allowed a season-high eight hits along with a home run.
The Tampa Bay Rays then tagged Bradish for five runs in five and a third on May 21. He struck out five while allowing two walks and two home runs to spoil Rutschman’s debut, not that anyone will remember anything from that game besides the triple.
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Bradish’s worst start came on May 27, when the Sox knocked him out after just five outs. He allowed six earned on six hits, a walk, and two hit-by-pitches. He also struck out two and gave up one home run but rebounded nicely on June 1.
Facing the Seattle Mariners, Bradish managed to go four and two-thirds while giving up two runs. He struck out six while walking two and allowing another homer. If you read the last four paragraphs closely, you might be sensing a theme. Bradish needs to keep the ball in the yard to improve his results.
His home run rate of 5.6% is way above the current league average of 2.7%. His walk and strikeout rates are both slightly above average, but those don’t mean much when he is giving up a ton of hard contact.
Bradish is allowing an average exit velocity of 92.3, placing him in the third percentile. His Baseball Savant page also shows a sea of blue regarding contact and expected stats, such as barrel rate, hard-hit percentage, and xERA. The hard contact has so far resulted in an unsightly OPS allowed of .914.
It is worth noting that Bradish is getting no help from the calendar. Four of the teams he has faced have winning records, and all six are playoff contenders. We all know how tough it is to win in the AL East, and that is mainly due to the offense.
A frustrating fact is that most rookies in baseball struggle, but that means fans should be hopeful that Bradish can adjust to the highest level. To that point, there are some adjustments Bradish can make right now. The obvious caveat aside that I am not the Baltimore Orioles pitching coach, Bradish can afford to mix up his pitches a little bit more.
Each of his four pitches are getting hit around for high averages and/or power, but they are heavily dependent on location. Batters are doing better lately against his slider, but Bradish should throw it more than 29% of the time, considering he usually spots it well. A more formidable challenge will be dotting more fastballs and curveballs on the corners instead of leaving them over the middle.
The front office will certainly be patient with their #3 pitching prospect, and fans should be too. When the expectations for this season are to see signs of improvement on the field, competitive outings from a rookie are all we can ask for. Kyle Bradish has plenty of time to figure things out.