Jed Bradley isn’t making excuses. The Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect knows he underperformed in his first professional season, and he’s spending the winter doing something about it. A 22-year-old lefthander, Bradley logged a 5.53 ERA for Brevard County, in the Florida State League, after being drafted 15th overall in 2011 out of Georgia Tech.
David Laurila: Do your numbers accurately reflect how you pitched?
Jed Bradley: I think they’re pretty indicative. It was not a great year. I did start out strong. Coming out of spring training, I felt great. My velocity was down, but my pitches were working well and my command was on. I don’t think I gave up an earned run over my first 20 innings.
After that, the five-day rotation and the growing pains of my first year really set in. I didn’t know how to handle a lot of it. I did too much in between starts, whether it was throwing, running, or the weight room. I kind of stretched myself too thin, and it caught up to me.
A lot of times you have to learn the hard way. I would get on the mound multiple times between starts, and I played way too much catch — both long-toss and short stuff. I wasn’t very cognizant of the effect that would have over the course of a 142-game season. I guess my mindset was more about the number of reps, as opposed to a quality number of reps. When they say, “Save your bullets,” that saying is around for a reason.
DL: According to Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook, you were throwing 96 mph in instructs [in 2011]. Was that accurate?
JB: I don’t know how that could be true. I think I threw one inning in instructs before I went to the Fall League, and I wasn’t throwing 96. Maybe there was somebody there with a juiced gun.
Scouting reports aren’t always 100% accurate. I read once that I don’t throw a pitch that I do throw, and that I do throw something I don’t.
Some of these rumor mills can just go nuts. In college, yes, I would maybe throw 96 from time to time. But in instructs? Probably not.
DL: Where did your velocity sit this season?
JB: I was probably 88-91. I had some games where I’d get up to 92, and very rarely would I get up to 93. But 88-91 can be a fine velocity. There are guys who have pitched in the big leagues for a long time doing that.
I was definitely used to throwing harder. My sophomore and junior year of college, I was pretty consistently 91-93. That doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but it’s a pretty big adjustment, especially when you’re facing better hitters.
DL: What can you do to regain the 91-93?
JB: I’m addressing it this offseason. That’s why I’m [at Cressey Performance, in Hudson, Mass.] seeing a guy like Eric Cressey. He’s the best at what he does, which is realizing where you’re weak and where you’re strong, and making those weaknesses a strength. I’m going to be taking his program back to Atlanta and working my tail off there.
In the past, I was stronger. Coming out of this season, I was 10 or 15 pounds lighter than I’ve been. I’m more of a physical pitcher, so when I’m heavier and stronger, my velocity tends to be higher.
DL: Is your fastball a two- or a four-seamer?
JB: I throw both. When I go away from righties or in to lefties, I’m throwing a two. When I go away from a lefty or in to a righty, I’m throwing a four. There’s a little difference in movement, and not a major difference in velocity — maybe a mile-an-hour or so. I think a lot of it is just a comfort level where you don’t worry as much about it running back over the middle.
DL: Was lack of command an issue this year?
JB: I wouldn’t say it was the biggest issue, but it was one of them. Basically, the two things were life and location. If you don’t have one, you need the other, and I didn’t have either of them very consistently.
DL: What do you throw besides a fastball?
JB: A curveball, slider and changeup. When I look back at my games, in some I threw 80% fastballs. I like to work off my fastball. I like to work down in the zone and try to get a lot of ground balls, and it was especially that way this year. My strikeout numbers were way down, so I had to rely on the ground ball more than I ever had in the past. I threw a lot of two-seams away, and changeups, trying to get guys to beat it into the ground.
Most of the time, hitters were probably getting a fastball. I thought the best way to get outs with the stuff I had this year was my sinker. In the future, that’s maybe going to change a bit.
DL: Did you make many adjustments this year?
JB: There were a few, although none really stuck. They’d suggest this, they’d suggest that, and we’d try it out. Then they’d suggest something else. But nothing major. They would maybe say, “Hey, try this grip,” but they were never looking for a full-bloom overhaul, or anything like that.
DL: What is your best secondary pitch?
JB: I’d say my changeup. It’s come a long way. I got a lot of outs with it this year. It’s a basic circle, with a two-seam grip, and I’ve gone from not even throwing it in college to relying on it quite a bit.
DL: Any final thoughts on your first season?
JB: It takes time. They say your first year in pro ball is the hardest. It’s a big adjustment period where there are a bunch of small things you need to learn, and that’s what the year was for me, a big learning curve.
Baseball is the greatest game in the world, but a lot of time people don’t understand the pathway you have to take to get to the big leagues. In every clubhouse, there are guys who have been there multiple years. At the higher levels you’ll get 10-year minor league veterans. They’re supporting a family — they have a wife and kids — and are putting everything on the line just for a shot.
This is a business. That’s something that’s really stuck out to me. They’re trying to put the best nine guys on the field in the big leagues at any point in time. They don’t care if you’re a 50th-round pick or a first-round pick. If you’re going to help them win at the big-league level, you’re going to be there. But you have to earn it. I’ve always been a hard worker, and this season showed me I have to work even harder.
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