Top prospect Bradley eager to learn in first camp
Young hurler seeks to gain knowledge from vets while competing for roster spot
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Archie Bradley is walking a fine line this spring.
The D-backs right-hander and top prospect wants to be accommodating to the media, realizing that it comes with the territory and, because by nature, he is extremely polite.
At the same time, Bradley realizes this is his first camp, and as a young player he would prefer not to get so much attention.
"I don't really like talking about myself, especially here," Bradley said. "I'm just trying to be as quiet as I can in here."
For Bradley, it's a matter of wanting those in the clubhouse who have been doing this for a lot longer than he has to know that he would rather listen to them than talk himself.
"I want them to understand that I respect the veterans," Bradley said. "I'm young, I'm very talented and things like that, but I want them to know how much I respect what they do, how much I respect the things they say. To them, talking to us is not a big deal, but I take everything they say to heart and I listen to everything they say. I try to understand what they've done to be here and what they've done to be successful."
Big things have been expected of Bradley since the D-backs selected him out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High School, with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Bradley was regarded as one of the more polished high school pitching prospects in the Draft, and his arm had also attracted the attention of college football coaches across the country. His beloved Oklahoma Sooners offered him a scholarship to play quarterback, but Bradley eventually chose to sign with the D-backs for $5 million.
While he still loves football, Bradley said he does not second-guess his decision to go with baseball. And why would he? His rise through the Arizona farm system has been swift, and he is ranked as the top pitching prospect in the game on MLB.com's list of Top 100 prospects.
"He's met every challenge," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said. "He's a pretty gifted young man where I think the skill set is definitely there and emotionally he's pretty strong. Maybe some of that has to do with football, his football upbringing. Calm under pressure. In the pocket, you don't want to have those happy feet. I think he's been preparing for this for some time."
In 152 innings last year for Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile, Bradley had a combined 1.84 ERA, and his walk rate improved from 2012.
With an overpowering fastball and outstanding curve, the biggest key for Bradley now is to be more consistent with his changeup to give him the three-pitch mix that most starters need to be successful in the big leagues.
"When I got to Double-A, I really learned what pitching takes," Bradley said. "Understanding, I guess, the difference between worrying about your numbers and wins and then understanding it's more important to go deep into games, giving your bullpen a rest, giving your team a chance. Instead of like, 'Well, I went five innings and didn't give up any runs.' But then the bullpen has to go four. But what if I can go seven and give up two, then the bullpen doesn't have to pitch as much. It's just things like that where I've matured. As a high school kid coming into it, all you care about is throwing hard and winning."
Bradley received an invitation to Spring Training this year with the idea that he would compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Those plans changed a few days into camp when the D-backs signed veteran free agent Bronson Arroyo. Suddenly there was no spot open in the rotation, but Towers went out of his way to say that Bradley still had a chance to make the team.
Showing his maturity, Bradley praised the Arroyo signing as something that made the team better.
"Of course, I want to start the year here with the big club," Bradley said. "I'm not going to lie. But my biggest goal in this camp is to learn and prepare as much as I can. I think people hear that and don't really believe it, but that's really true. I'm young I have a lot of time left in front of me and I'm just going to keep preparing, keep learning and just kind of prepare myself for whether it's Day 1 or down the road and they call me and say, 'Let's go.'"
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.