Sunday, December 8, 2013

Scouting Archie Bradley

I haven’t had the opportunity to see Archie Bradley in person yet so I’m relying a lot on YouTube clips and word of mouth.  Here is one clip that the Google machine brought up that shows his mechanics very well.

As an avid Diamondbacks fan, I’m excited to see what Bradley could bring to the table as soon as this spring.  The Diamondbacks rotation, which could change in the coming days with the Winter Meetings tomorrow, looks like it will be Patrick Corbin, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill as the shoe-ins and there will be a battle between Tyler Skaggs (assuming he isn’t traded), Randall Delgado and Bradley.  

When I look at this rotation, I see a lot of mediocrity and middle-of-the-rotation arms rather than a first-division player who could lead a pitching staff.  With what scouts have said about Bradley, he could be the type of arm to do just that.  

Now, onto the actual scouting of Bradley.  I’ll start from the bottom and make my way to the top.  His high leg kick is what sticks out first when you see him pitch.  His lead knee comes up to his chest level (I’d say the typical pitcher raises his knee to his belly button) and his toe is pointed toward the sky when most pitchers are taught to let the foot relax at the top of balance.  

Balance is one of the most important aspects to baseball and that is true in every facet of the game.  He does not have much torque in his hips but the little he does, Bradley is good at getting his hips lined to home plate as he strides.  

One thing I look closely at now (and something I never really thought about until this past summer) is how the landing foot first hits the ground.  There are three ways this could happen and it is either by leading with a heel strike, a toe strike or a flat-footed approach.  There isn’t necessarily a “correct” way but I prefer the flat-footed approach.  

When a pitcher lands on the heel, it can lead to them spinning off, or yanking his lead shoulder which creates arm lag and inconsistency in the zone.  When a pitcher lands on the toe, it can shorten the stride length and take away the velocity deception that a long stride gives a pitcher.

Bradley finishes with the flat-footed approach and that allows him to have his entire body going toward home plate and directed at his target.  

There is a bit of a difference in the way some pitching coaches teach shoulder tilt.  Some prefer it saying it creates deception and a downward angle to the baseball going toward home plate and others say it is a complete waste of time worrying about the downward angle.

In my humble opinion, I tell pitchers to do what is most comfortable and what will lead to the most quality strikes.  Bradley has a rather large tilt to his shoulders and gets his glove high up in the air but is able to pull it down quickly and get over his front side.  

The only problem I have from the video I have seen is from the stretch it appears Bradley does not have as much extension at release as he does from the windup (and if you have heard me talk about pitching, I happen to think the windup is a bit of an overrated concept on account the most important pitches a pitcher makes come from the stretch).  

Without the use of TrackMan to tell me what Bradley’s actual extension is, a good way to measure is see how far down the front leg the throwing arm gets on the follow through.  I prefer to see most high 3/4 arms to get to at least the knee while low 3/4 pitchers get to right above the knee.  

Bradley gets to below knee level from the windup and at knee level in the stretch.  Not that this is the biggest of problems for a guy who runs it in the high 90’s but it could help him make his fastball appear even faster than it already does.  After all, high 90’s fastballs can still be squared up at the Major League level.

I’m going to focus on Bradley’s best two offerings, his fastball and breaking ball.  He does a nice job keeping his wrist stiff at release which gives the baseball a left-side spin lead causing it to have sharp arm-side run.  It gets in on righty’s hands and is not as gradual run as pitchers who get under the baseball as opposed to on top.  

His breaking ball is a wipeout pitch.  I would love to see how it does against some Major League hitters this spring and seeing their reactions because just watching video, it makes my knees buckle.  It has 11-5 spin and is hard and dirty.  I’d give it more praise but I don’t want to ramble.

Overall, this Bradley could be the ace the Diamondbacks have needed since the Brandon Webb days (oh how long ago those seem now).  As long as Bradley can cut down on the walk totals, I see no reason why he can’t be an All-Star caliber arm.

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