Archie Bradley appeared in his fourth game for the Diamondbacks on Sunday, throwing 2 ⅔ shutout innings against the Dodgers, adding a strikeout and walking just one. This solid appearance for Bradley only adds to his strong start as a relief pitcher this season: 9 ⅔ innings pitched, five hits allowed, 11 strikeouts and just three walks.
Bradley’s 0.00 ERA is obviously tied for first among relievers but even more telling are his peripherals. His FIP of 1.54 and xFIP of 2.40 suggest that his performance has not been too diluted by luck. Even better, he’s already been worth 0.3 fWAR, ranking near the top of qualified relievers, in a tie for 11th.
A former first-round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2011, Bradley’s future was always thought to be in the starting rotation. He has a big fastball and can mix in a changeup, curveball and cutter, all of which projected to be at least average Major League pitches.
His path to becoming an ace starter, though, wasn’t clear after his rookie season yielded mixed results. In 141 ⅔ innings last year, Bradley posted a 5.02 ERA and a 4.10 FIP in 26 starts. He especially struggled in the control department, posting the 5th highest BB% among starters with at least 140 innings.
And after the Diamondbacks added Taijuan Walker in a trade over the winter, Bradley was on the outside looking in at the starting rotation, and he was officially named as the Diamondbacks’ long reliever on March 24.
Despite that, though, Bradley has shown he may have what it takes to become an ace in Arizona, just an ace reliever rather than starter. The team might be starting to catch on, giving him the ball with the lead in two close games already.
Here’s why Bradley has all the tools to potentially be the Diamondbacks’ relief ace:
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