In another transaction meant to provide organizational pitching depth, the Braves signed 31-year-old righty Chasen Bradford on Tuesday night to a minor league contract. The deal was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Right-hander Chasen Bradford and Atlanta are in agreement on a minor league deal, sources tell ESPN. Bradford pitched for Mets and Mariners from 2017-19 and missed last season after Tommy John surgery. Another arm that helps Atlanta with something all teams covet: pitching depth.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 17, 2021
A product of the University of Central Florida and a 35th-round selection by the Mets in the 2011 MLB Draft, Bradford pitched in New York’s system from 2011-17, before spending time in the Mariner’s organization from 2018-19. However, his entire 2020 campaign was spoiled due to a Tommy John surgery.
Overall, Bradford sports a solid 3.89 ERA (4.99 FIP) in 104 career major league innings spread out over parts of three seasons. His minor league career includes a 3.46 ERA across 403 innings.
With last season being so short, teams will likely take their time in extending their starting staff. This causes signings like Carl Edwards Jr., Victor Arano, and now Bradford — pitchers that aren’t exactly viable for a ton of big league innings during more normal circumstances but appropriate nonetheless as important depth options this coming season. We may see more innings pitched by relievers in 2021 than we’ve ever seen before, so carrying a ton of arms that can be shuttled back and forth from Gwinnett is basically a necessity.
However, barring some catastrophic luck regarding Atlanta’s bullpen this coming season, Bradford will not likely pitch for the Braves in 2021.
As more of a soft-tosser, Bradford has settled in as a pitch-to-contact guy as illustrated by his career rate of 6.6 strikeouts per nine in the majors and 7.6 K/9 in the minors. Although, the 6-1, 255-pound righty doesn’t walk many batters, either (2.7 BB/9 in MLB).
Two seasons ago, Bradford wielded a four-pitch mix headlined by his 90 MPH four-seam fastball. Although his heater’s low velocity didn’t seem to be much of an issue as it held opposing batters to a .176 AVG in 2019. According to Statcast, Bradford’s fastball is a bit better than average in terms of spin-rate (58-percentile), so perhaps the pitch looks harder than advertised.
In regards to secondaries, Bradford loves to attack right-handed batters with sliders on the inside corner. While with Seattle in 2019, he threw his slide-piece more than any other pitch, although the offering had mixed results as opposing batters slugged .630 against it.
Both his sinker and changeup are Bradford’s least-thrown offerings, and while he leaned on the former a bit more earlier in his career, the offspeed pitch has never been much of an option for him. It was certainly a small sample size, but Bradford’s change generated nearly a 30% whiff-rate in 2019 as a pitch thrown solely against lefty batters. Perhaps the Braves could get him to use the offering more, thus unlocking a bit more potential versus batters with the platoon advantage.
All-in-all there’s just nothing real flashy about Bradford or his repertoire, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing given it’s simply a minor league deal. However, according to The Athletic‘s David O’Brien, Bradford won’t get in on any Grapefruit games this spring, so any looks will have to come in the regular season.
Photo: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire