Winter Haven, FL - When you go to high school in Oklahoma and can get a horde of scouting directors and national crosscheckers to see you pitch in Winter Haven, Florida, you must be a coveted prospect.
It’s actually happening on back-to-back days.
Winter Haven High School is hosting the Terry Donley Blue Devil Classic at Polk State College this weekend with a 12-team field that includes two high schools from Oklahoma and ten from in-state.
The two schools, less than 15 minutes apart, are long-time rivals with outstanding baseball programs. This year is particularly special as both loaded rosters boast righthanded pitchers among the very best in the 2011 Draft class.
The scouts came to see Archie Bradley on Tuesday afternoon, pitch 6.2 innings in a 4-1 winning effort against Florida-power Lakeland High School.
He came out of the shoot wild, but throwing hard, in the 92-93 MPH range before settling a couple miles lower. Bradley threw low and high strikes okay, but struggled going in-and-out, hitting the second batter he faced.
Bradley also struggled with command of his 78-83 MPH curveball which showed little depth or control in the early innings. But it seemed as the game went on, Bradley started pitching more, and his curve began to look like a big league pitch. The break got deeper and deeper and was probably at its best in the 7th inning even though his fastball velocity was down. I would project it as a plus major league pitch in the future.
Physically, Bradley is an imposing 6’5”, 230 lbs, with broad shoulders and wide hips. He’s not sculpted or particularly defined, just big and strong and bound to get a lot bigger by the time he’s 23. I imagine whoever invented the term “country strong” had this Oklahoman in mind.
He has all the look of someone who can pitch 200+ innings a year and that’s a big reason teams are so into him. Bradley’s not fluid or athletic with his delivery, not particularly loose with his arm, but he’s so strong in his core and his lower half that there’s little strain on his elbow or shoulder when he goes through his motion.
Bradley’s arm-action is a little longer than average in the back, but he keeps his front shoulder closed long enough to give him good deception. Though his fastball is mostly straight, these hitters don’t pick it up. He comes across about high three-quarters and has good forward extension with the arm.
I can see where his delivery might be modified in pro ball, at least at the finish. Bradley gathers back okay and is balanced in the middle, but he lands on a stiff front leg. It doesn’t stop him from throwing low strikes, but it may lead to a little extra strain on the throwing joints. Such a modification could possibly improve his command down the road as well.
Overall, he’s a clear 1st-round talent. I don’t see him as one of those rare high school pitchers who can rise within two years (like Madison Bumgarner, Rick Porcello among others), but he can beat the standard 5-6 year timetable. It should also be kept in mind that Bradley has divided his time between two sports, in fact he’s quite able in his other athletic endeavor.
Bradley has a football scholarship to Oklahoma. He’s one of those big quarterbacks who can gun the pigskin and still have enough agility to make things happen out of the pocket.
From all I’ve been told, baseball is his priority, he’ll play both if he ends up at OU, but if he goes into pro ball with just one job then his development as a pitcher could easily hasten. I’ve seen it happen before!
I’ll report later in the week on the fine underclassmen at the tournament as well as Dylan Bundy’s outing later today. There’s a similar anticipation for Bundy and it should be a scout circus yet again at Polk State College.