If you don’t know, Mets Twitter is a very intense place. Equal parts faithful and frustrated, they are nonetheless very dialed into their team. And Mets Twitter was not happy Chasen Bradford, potentially useful bullpen piece, was DFA’d.
Bradford was claimed by four different teams when DFA’d, indicating the Mets at the least could probably have wrung some trade value out of the 28-year-old righty specialist who has been a steady workhorse over his entire seven-year career as part of the Mets organization. He spent 2014-2017 toiling on the Mets’ Triple-A team, posting FIPs under 4 despite pitching in the moonscape of Las Vegas and the PCL. Bradford’s K-rate might not be eye-popping for a reliever but he limits free passes and wasn’t punished too badly by the longball. In 33 MLB innings with the Mets Bradford struggled a little with walks but was able to maintain his modest strikeout numbers and limit damage when the ball was put in play, running a nice 56% groundball rate.
A righty specialist who has solid numbers and boasts above average spin rate but struggles against lefties? Where have we seen that before?
Like Vincent, Bradford boasts an above-average spin rate on his 90+-mph fastball (2250 RPM, about 100 RPM above average), as well as an elite spin rate on his slider (2620 RPM). Given these numbers, it’s a little surprising Bradford’s K-rate has hovered around 19% over his career—which was, coincidentally, Vincent’s K-rate last season—but as Bradford says, he prefers the ball to be put in play on the ground rather than getting strikeouts.
Also like Nick Vincent—at least, the Nick Vincent who was a Padre—Bradford currently runs some wicked platoon splits. In his MLB stint, he allowed a .312 wOBA against lefties vs. .255 for righties. He’s improved since 2015, when at Triple-A he ran a 2.40 ERA against righties vs. over 7 against lefties, but there’s still a significant split over time. Perhaps, like Vincent, Bradford will be well-served by abandoning the strategy of “pitch the away side of the plate against lefties.”
Watching back one of Bradford’s appearances against a lefty-heavy Dodgers lineup, this tendency is especially pronounced. Bradford started Seager, Bellinger, and Peterson each off with a fastball away, and all of them laid off to immediately jump ahead in the count 1-0. When Bradford then tried to come in more on Seager, the result was a ball tattooed to deep center that almost went out. Bradford was able to get Bellinger to pop out, and fell behind Peterson 2-0 before getting him to roll over into a soft groundout. Constantly working behind batters isn’t a great way to go into any at-bat, and it limits him from being able to access his strikeout pitch, his nasty high-spin slider. Here’s an example of that working as it should, in an at-bat against Chase Utley: Bradford works the bottom of the zone and quickly jumps out to 0-2.
He then is able to put Utley away on his excellent slider:
Another appealing thing about Bradford: he has at least one option, maybe two. While he’s probably not interested in spending yet even more time in Triple-A, Tacoma is a much friendlier pitching environment than Las Vegas, and that flexibility would allow the Mariners to shift him between Seattle and Tacoma (something much tougher to do Las Vegas-to-NYC). At 28, Bradford isn’t chronologically young—another similarity to Vincent, he’s about the same age Vincent was when transferring away from the one MLB team he’s ever known—but with just one partial MLB season under his belt, Bradford has room to grow under Seattle’s coaching staff. It will be interesting to see if he can make similar adjustments to Vincent and blossom into a solid setup man.