When a pitcher leaves with “forearm stiffness”, bad news usually follows. This was the case with Kris Medlen last week as he is staring straight at his second Tommy John surgery. So, when Diamondbacks young ace Patrick Corbin left his recent start with forearm stiffness, Diamondback fans’ hearts skipped a beat. The forearm stiffness diagnosis has led to UCL damage and inevitable Tommy John surgery. Although Tommy John surgery isn’t the pitching death sentence it once was, it does set a pitcher’s career as well as an organization’s future back twelve months. Fortunately for Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers, he has a 21 year old pitching phenom at his disposal.
Prior to Corbin’s injury, the Diamondbacks had a projected rotation of Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, and Bronson Arroyo with other options including Randall Delgado and Josh Collmenter. Yet, if the Diamondbacks want to make a splash in the NL West that includes the World Series contender Dodgers and other surprise contenders that coud include the Padres and Giants, the Diamondbacks replace Corbin with a more than capable option. Therefore, top prospect Archie Bradley seems to provide a high upside option that could catapult the Diamondbacks into an NL wildcard spot.
Archie Bradley was selected 7th overall out of high school by the Diamondbacks in 2011. Bradley has a prototypical pitching ace body standing at 6 feet 4 inches and weighing 225 pounds. He throws a mid-90’s fastball and a hard breaking knucklecurve. That deadly combination has given him the reputation as a future strikeout weapon at the big league level. Bradley is the prime prospect in the Diamondbacks organization and has the chance to be a star in the near future. The question is: Is Bradley the answer this year?
The Diamondbacks have three viable in-house options in Delgado, Collmenter, and Bradley. So, it seems unlikely Towers will search for a replacement outside the organization. Collmenter has been the Diamondbacks long reliever in recent years but has a career 4.03 ERA as a starter compared to a 2.51 ERA as a reliever. Delgado was the main prospect acquired from the Braves in the trade for Justin Upton. Yet, Delgado has not blossomed like fellow Braves pitching prospect Julio Teheran. Delgado may not be able to provide consistent quality starts to be a viable option. Bradley seems to have the most upside out of the three.
In Bradley’s first two spring training starts, he did not allow a run in 6.1 innings of work before allowing four runs in two innings against the Robinson Cano-led Mariners. Bradley has displayed his ability to get strikeouts so far with an 11.11 K/9 innings ratio.
Some say the Diamondbacks would benefit from waiting to bring up Bradley to delay his MLB service to push back free agency by a year. Some say the Diamondbacks would hinder Bradley’s development by rushing him and turning him into the next Trevor Bauer. Yet, Bradley is not the mental disaster that Bauer is and treading water for three months may not be the answer for Arizona. The Diamondbacks would like to avoid a third straight 81-81 season and make the jump to a division title. The Diamondbacks have a fairly shallow farm system that is sure to get thinner following the promotions of Bradley and top hitting prospect Chris Owings. The Diamondbacks window of contention is now and the promotion of Bradley to the rotation would surely turn an already above average pitching staff into an excellent one.
Bradley would provide the Diamondbacks with a big, towering, young arm that can get strikeouts and put fear into the minds of hitters. If he proves to be successful, he could provide an intriguing matchup to the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Matt Cain within the division. Just like Jose Fernandez last year, Bradley could be the next fresh pitching prospect to break through and surprise early at the major league level. If Kevin Towers choses Bradley to replace Corbin, the future may arrive this spring in Arizona.