Sunday Notes: Orioles Prospect Enrique Bradfield Jr. Knows His Game

Enrique Bradfield Jr. has good wheels, and he can also hit a bit. Drafted 17th overall last year by the Baltimore Orioles out of Vanderbilt University, the 22-year-old outfielder not only slashed .311/.426/.447 over three collegiate seasons, his table-setter batting style translated smoothly to pro ball. In 110 plate appearances versus A-ball pitching, Bradfield batted .291 with a Bonds-esque .473 OBP.

The chances of Bradfield’s ever being comped to Barry Bonds are basically nonexistent. At 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, the erstwhile Commodore is, in the words of our prospect co-analysts Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin, “a contact-oriented speedster who will also play plus defense.” Power isn’t a meaningful part of his game. Bradfield went deep just 15 times at Vandy, and not at all after inking a contract with the O’s.

He doesn’t expect that to change. When I asked him during spring training if he’s ever tried to tap into more power, Bradfield said that has never been a focus, adding that he’d “be going in the wrong direction if it was.” That seems a shrewd self-assessment. A line-drive hitter who swings from the left side, Bradfield will ultimately reach Baltimore by continuing to propel balls from foul pole to foul pole.

“I know the type of player that I am, and the player that I want to be over the long-term,” Bradfield told me. “That’s the most important piece, finding what works best for me and not just doing something it because it might look good, or might look like it’s going to work. I’ve never shied away from trying new things — I’m always looking for ways to get better — but I also know that I need to be true to who I am.”

That includes his aforementioned speed — Bradfield is an 80 runner who swiped 25 bases last year in 25 professional games — centerfield defense, and plus contact skills. Moreover, he augments his bat-to-ball acumen with a good eye. Bradfield drew 26 free passes and fanned just 16 times in his extended pro cameo.

His approach at the plate is a combination of old school and new school. While he values game-planning, he also feels that “sometimes you just have be a see-ball-hit-ball type of hitter.” As for his approach to metrics, that leans heavily old school. Bradfield has never been one to look at data such as exit velocities and swing rates, preferring instead to “let the people whose job it is to look at that.” By doing so, he can allow himself to “keep things as simple as possible.”

Hearing that, I reminded Bradfield that he went to Vanderbilt. He shouldn’t need things dumbed down.

“No,” replied Bradfield, who is expected to begin his first full season with the Aberdeen IronBirds. “But sometimes it works better that way.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Rabbit Warstler went 11 for 27 against Waite Hoyt.

Rabbit Maranville went 8 for 14 against Elmer Ponder.

Bunny Brief went 5 for 13 against Chief Bender.

Bunny Fabrique went 4 for 8 against Eppa Rixey.

Rabbit Robinson went 4 for 12 against Happy Townsend.

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Which player is the key to the New York Mets’ success this season? I put that question to Tim Healey prior to the NL East team’s 2024 opener.

Francisco Alvarez is the key to the Mets’ success this season,” opined Healey, who covers the club for Newsday. “Last year, when an injury to Omar Narváez thrust him into the starting catcher role about a year earlier than the Mets anticipated, he became a highlight of their season, hitting 25 home runs and impressing defensively — far from a strength during his time in the minors.

“However, he had a mixed season offensively, great months alternating with bad ones, making for a 95 OPS+ overall. A more even performance at the plate almost certainly would mean another huge step forward for Alvarez, which about everybody on and around the team expects. Growth offensively, and even stability defensively, would make Alvarez one of the best catchers in the majors — and the key to the Mets’ success.”

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MLB.com’s Zack Meisel waxed poetic when I asked him which player is the key to Cleveland’s season.

“Ever seen a Triston McKenzie curveball? — it’s like your first ice cream cone of the summer,” the Guardians beat writer told me via email. “It’s nirvana. It’s beautiful. It brings joy to everyone… except the fool in the batter’s box who swings over top of it. You know what we were deprived of last year? Triston McKenzie’s curveball. And, well, Triston McKenzie’s everything. He totaled 16 innings. First, he suffered a shoulder injury during his last start of the spring. Then, he suffered an elbow injury two starts into his return.

“For the Guardians to make noise this season, their rotation needs to be better than good or, even, really good. And for that to happen, they need McKenzie healthy. Shane Bieber seems poised for a triumphant contract year. Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams and Logan Allen, after impressive rookie seasons, should have their training wheels removed in Year 2. McKenzie, though, is the key. If the 2022 version reappears, that’s great news for the Guardians — and great news for anyone who enjoys watching a devastating curveball that makes hitters weep.”

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A quiz:

The Houston Astros have the highest winning percentage (.501) among MLB expansion teams. Which expansion team has the second-highest winning percentage?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

A total of 264 players — 27.8% of MLB players — representing 19 different countries and territories outside of the 50 United States were on opening day rosters (including inactive, injured or restricted lists). The Dominican Republic had the most (108), followed by Venezuela (58), Cuba (18), Puerto Rico (17),, Canada (13), Mexico (12), and Japan (10).

The video recording of SABR’s Oral History Committee interview with Mike Hargrove is now available, as is a PDF transcript. Both can be found here.

Buddy Baseball — a non-competitive recreational league for boys and girls with special needs in the Tampa Bay community — dedicated a field to Dave Wills earlier this month. The popular Tampa Bay Rays broadcaster, who died unexpectedly a year ago this month, had been a staunch supporter of the non-profit. If you’d like to contribute to a good cause, Buddy Baseball accepts donations to help pay for equipment, uniforms, scholarships, trophies and other necessities to keep the league running smoothly.

Nolan Schanuel singled in the ninth inning yesterday and has now reached base in all 31 major league games in which he’s appeared. The Los Angeles Angels first baseman — featured here at FanGraphs earlier this week — debuted last August, 44 days after being drafted 11th overall out of Florida Atlantic University.

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The answer to the quiz is the Toronto Blue Jays, with a .499 winning percentage. The Los Angeles Angels are third, at .497.

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The Arizona Diamondbacks blitzing the Colorado Rockies with a 14-run third inning on Thursday — the biggest single-inning output in opening day history — was reminiscent of the Red Sox scoring 14 times against the Marlins in their first ups on June 27, 2003. Florida took a 1-0 lead in the top half of the frame, only to have Boston respond with the following sequence: 2B, 1B, 2B, HR, 2B, 1B, 1B, BB, 1B, 3B, 1B, F-2, 1B, BB, SF-8, BB, 2B, BB, 1B.

Remarkably, the Red Sox tallied 10 runs before the first out was recorded, this by the third Marlins pitcher of the game. Johnny Damon tallied three hits, the last of them plating the 14 and final run, with Bill Mueller thrown out at home on the play to finally end the inning. Boston went on to win 25-8.

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Hitters almost universally say that they focus on the fastball and adjust to off-speed pitches. The approach makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to do. Not only do some pitchers rely on a healthy dose of secondaries, certain counts and situations make a heater less likely. Riley Greene feels that staying disciplined is the key.

“It’s a trust factor,” the Detroit Tigers outfielder said. “Sometimes you go up there knowing you’re not getting a heater, but you still stay on it. For me, personally, if I’m on the heater I know that I can get to any off-speed. It helps me stay on the off-speed better than sitting on it. If I sit off-speed, I’m getting jumpy. If I’m sitting on a heater, I’m not.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Highly-regarded rookie Ryuki Watarai belted a three-run homer to propel the Yokohama DeNA BayStars to a 4-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp in each team’s NPB opener on Friday. He then went 4-for-4 with another home run yesterday. The 21-year-old, left-handed-hitting outfielder was widely considered the best pure hitter in last years’s NPB draft.

Franmil Reyes homered in his first NPB game as the Nippon Ham Fighters won their opening game 4-1 over the Chiba Lotte Marines. Hiromi Otoh, whose repertoire includes an impressive eephus, went six scoreless for the win.

Roki Sasaki allowed one run and fanned seven batters over five innings in his first NPB start of the season. The 22-year-old flamethrower, who has made known his desire to come to MLB, got a no-decision as the Marines fell to the Fighters 3-2 earlier today.

Livan Moinelo has reportedly agreed to a contract extension with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks though the 2028 season. Transitioning to a starting role this year after being one of NPB’s most dominant relievers, the 27-year-old Cuban southpaw went the distance yesterday in SoftBank’s 2-0 loss to the Orix Buffaloes.

Former St. Louis Cardinals reliever James Naile had a successful KBO debut earlier this week, punching out nine batters and allowing just one run over six innings as the Kia Tigers topped the Lotte Giants 8-2. The 31-year-old right-hander discussed his unique spin profiles in a Sunday Notes column last May.

The KT Wiz are off to a 1-6 start, but that’s no fault of Seong Ho Cheon. The club’s 26-year-old infielder has 18 hits in 30 at-bats and leads the KBO with 10 runs scored.

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A random obscure former player snapshot:

Al Wingo had one of the most under-the-radar great single-season batting lines in Detroit Tigers franchise history. In 1925, the left-handed-hitting outfielder slashed .370/.456/.527 with a 146 wRC+ in 524 plate appearances — and ranked third best among the AL club’s outfielders in overall offensive production. Wingo’s fly-chaser partners that summer included Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (163 wRC+) and Harry Heilmann (155 wRC+).

Contributing to Wingo’s obscurity is the fact that 1925 was his best season by miles. All told, he logged over a third of his career games, as well as 163 of his 409 hits. He wasn’t even the most accomplished big-leaguer in his family. His older brother, Ivey Wingo, caught for 17 seasons and won a World Series with the Cincinnati Reds in 1919.

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Who was the first person to throw a pitch on a major league mound that was measured by TrackMan? According to Winning Fixes Everything, Evan Drellich’s book about the Houston Astros’ emergence as a controversial data-driven organization, the answer is Sig Mejdal. Now Vice President/Assistant General Manager for the Baltimore Orioles, Mejdal was in the St. Louis Cardinals front office at the time, and as “the most athletic person around” upon its installation — Busch Stadium was the first MLB ballpark to have the system — he was chosen to give it a whirl. What Sig’s spin rate was is unknown.

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FARM NOTES

The minor-league season got underway on Friday, with six of the 13 games being decided by one run — two of them in extra innings — and another that ended 7-4 thanks to a three-run walk-off homer that capped a seven-run ninth inning. Rodolfo Castro went deep with two runners on to give the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs [Phillies] the furious come-from-behind win over the Worcester Red Sox.

Colorado Rockies outfield prospect Jordan Beck had Opening Day’s longest home run, a 450-foot shot for the Albuquerque Isotopes in a 6-5 loss to the El Paso Chihuahuas. The 22-year-old 2022 first-rounder had 25 round-trippers and a 134 wRC+ last year between High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford.

Paul Skenes threw three perfect innings with five strikeouts yesterday in his Triple-A debut with the Indianapolis Indians. Drafted first overall last year by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of LSU, the 21-year-old right-hander reportedly reached triple digits a dozen times in 46 total pitches.

The Norfolk Tides have scored 12 runs in each of their first two games. Jackson Holliday, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby, and Kyle Stowers have combined to go 24-for-47 with three home runs.

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Jim Lonborg is primarily known for winning the Cy Young Award with the Boston Red Sox in 1967, then suffering a knee injury in a skiing accident that winter. Over the next six seasons, the right-hander went a combined 54-57 with an 88 ERA+ pitching for Boston, the Brewers in 1972, and the Phillies in 1973.

Forgotten by many is that Lonborg went on to have a pair of seasons in Philadelphia that were comparable to those of a southpaw Hall of Famer who served as the team’s ace. To wit:

In 1974, Steve Carlton threw 291 innings and went 16-13 with a 3.22 ERA. Lonborg threw 282 innings and went 17-13 with a 3.21 ERA.

In 1976, Carlton threw 252-and-two-thirds innings and went 20-7 with a 3.13 ERA. Lonborg threw 222 innings and went 18-10 with a 3.08 ERA.

As for his Cy Young season in Boston, Lonborg threw 273-and-a-third innings and went 22-9 with a 3.16 ERA. One could reasonably argue that it wasn’t necessarily his best year, that he was actually just as good in two of his Philadelphia seasons. I don’t think many Red Sox fans realize this, nor do many Phillies fans.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Guardian, Peter Dreier wrote about how Steve Garvey is part of a never-ending flow of baseball players turned politicians.

At The Smithsonian, Frederic J. Frommer looked into how John Thorn, baseball’s official historian, dug up the game’s unknown origins.

The Birmingham Black Barons made their Negro National League debut against the Cuban Stars in April 1925. Donna Halper chronicled the historic club’s 6-3 win for SABR’s Games Project.

An MLB debut was a dream come true for San Francisco Giants outfielder Jung Hoo Lee. Jee-ho Yoo has the story at Yonhap News Agency.

At The Japan Times, Jim Allen wrote about how Chiba Lotte Marines manager Masato Yoshii touts the benefits of higher learning.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Detroit’s 1-0 win over the Chicago White Sox marked the first time in franchise history that the Tigers won by that score in their season opener. The contest was a far cry from the franchise’s first-ever game. On April 25, 1901, the Tigers rallied for 10 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 14-13.

The only World Series appearance in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history came in 1982 when they lost a seven-game series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Paul Molitor and Robin Yount combined to go 23-for-60 in the losing cause.

Lou Brock played in 327 games with the Chicago Cubs before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals midway through the 1964 season. Brock went on to slash .334/.378/.479 in 1,103 plate appearances against his original club. The BA and OPS were his highest against any career opponent,

Paul Goldschmidt has 340 home runs, 775 extra-base hits, and 1,134 runs scored.
Ron Santo had 342 home runs, 774 extra-base hits, and 1,138 runs scored.

Daulton Varsho had 20 bunt hits over the 2022-2023 seasons, the most in the majors. He also had 47 home runs, the same number as both Dansby Swanson and Trea Turner. Neither Swanson nor Turner had a bunt hit in the past two seasons.

The Minnesota Twins released Luis Tiant on today’s date in 1971. The right-hander would later go 121-74 with a 3.30 ERA with the Boston Red Sox from 1972-1978.

The first game in Tampa Bay Rays franchise history was played on today’s date in 1998. The then-Devil Rays lost to the Detroit Tigers 11-6 at Tropicana Field, with Wade Boggs hitting the expansion team’s first home run in defeat.

Players born on today’s date include Bill Denehy, who went 1-10 while making 49 pitching appearances for the New York Mets, Washington Senators, and Detroit Tigers across the 1967-1971 seasons. Denehy went on to coach Jeff Bagwell at the University of Hartford, part of a roller-coaster life that was chronicled by Alan Cohen for SABR’s Bio Project.

Also born on today’s date was Mule Suttles, a Negro Leagues legend who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006. The Blocton, Alabama native played from 1924-1944 and had his best seasons with the St. Louis Stars and the Newark Eagles. He’s considered one of the greatest power hitters of all time.

Luke Easter starred for the Negro National Leagues’s Homestead Grays before making his MLB debut with Cleveland in August 1949, at age 34, and going on to hit 93 home runs and log a 125 wRC+ from 1950-1953. Born Luscious Luke Easter, in Jonestown, Mississippi, he was 48 years old when he played his last professional game with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings in 1964.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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PC1970
21 days ago

Easy trivia for Easter Sunday, I like it!

Seemed like Toronto was the easiest choice, as they only struggled for 4-5 years initially & then had a good 10+ year run in the 80’s/90’s & have generally been decent most years. I did consider LAA, who were pretty successful over a long period until recently.

As for the others (SD, Seattle, Colorado, FLA, TB, NYM, AZ, KC, etc.).- While almost all have had some periods of success, they have also had too many extended periods in the wilderness.

Left of Centerfield
21 days ago
Reply to  PC1970

I was between Tampa and Toronto for the quiz. Went with Tampa who isn’t far off from the others (.490). In fact, the way things are going, they’ll probably pass the Angels in a year or two.

PC1970
21 days ago

I’d agree with that..& The Angels were ahead of everyone through 2014.

All expansion teams have slow starts, but, they were generally decent from 1979 thru 2014 & had that really good dozen or so years under Scioscia.

They are 60 games below .500 overall, but, are 96 games under .500 since 2015..meaning they were over .500 as a franchise through 2014. Add in Houston’s great teams the last decade & LAA was clearly ahead of them through 2014.

Last edited 21 days ago by PC1970
MikeSmember
21 days ago
Reply to  PC1970

I picked Tampa. While they were not great for their first 10 years, they have been pretty good for the last 16 seasons with 9 playoff appearances in that time. Toronto only has 10 playoff appearances since 1977.

PC1970
21 days ago
Reply to  MikeS

The issue is they were SO bad those 1st 10 years. Lost 91+ games every year, so they had a big hole to climb out of. Add in that mid 2010’s 3-4 year doldrums & just not enough… at least not yet.

Toronto, OTOH, has only had ONE 90+ loss season since 1980. They lost 100+ games the 1st 3 years, 95 in 1980, stunk during the 81 strike season, but, since then, even though they’ve only made the playoffs 10x, the “bad” years are more of the 75-84 win mediocrity than 90+ loss stinkers.

Last edited 21 days ago by PC1970