The Diamondbacks starting rotation had three locks in Zack Greinke, Taijuan Walker, and Robbie Ray. They had Braden Shipley, Archie Bradley, Patrick Corbin, and Shelby Milller compete for the final two spots. Late in March, it’s pretty clear that Miller and Corbin will take the final two rotation spots over Bradley and Shipley. With no path to the rotation, the Diamondbacks have two options to deal with Bradley for 2017. They can use him as a long man in the bullpen or they can send him to Reno to work on his secondary pitches such as the cutter the last regime told him to scrap and stay stretched out in case of an injury or Miller repeats 2016.
If the Diamondbacks do indeed move him to the bullpen, it can be where Bradley can be effective chewing up innings. Bradley has a very good fastball-curveball combination that play off each other well. The bullpen itself is a temporary solution while more polished pitchers like Corbin and Miller could be pitching either for an audition to play for another team or key a potential, yet unlikely, postseason run. Out of the pen, Bradley can throw with more max effort on days he’s not being asked to eat up 4-5 innings. That will boost his velo to consistently mid-90s, where he was as a big ticket prospect and batters don’t have enough looks at him to make adjustments.
There is a value in having a guy eating up innings in case of a short start as well as being able to add starting pitching depth without making a roster move. Josh Collmenter made a career out of that in Arizona as a swing man from 2011-2016. Collmenter had some success as a starter in 2011 and 2014 before ultimately being moved to the bullpen to limit his exposure to other teams in other years. In 2012, Wade Miley started the year as a long reliever before struggles with the rest of the rotation put him back in that role and he wound up being the team’s lone All-Star representative. Putting Bradley in the pen to start the season does not necessarily mean his career as a starting pitcher is over either.
UPDATE: 3/24 1:11 PM
We can stop speculating if Bradley will be in the bullpen, it is now a reality.
#Dbacks mgr Torey Lovullo says Archie Bradley will begin the year in the big leagues as a reliever.— Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB) March 24, 2017