The Baltimore Orioles promoted pitching prospect Parker Bridwell to the major league roster yesterday. He came out of the bullpen with two innings of relief work against the Houston Astros, giving up a run on two hits while fanning two. Let's take a look at what he offers.
The Orioles drafted Bridwell in the ninth round in 2010 from high school in Hereford, Texas. His trek through the system was slow but steady, as he showed impressive arm strength but struggled to make the transition from thrower to pitcher. His 2015 campaign was his best: 3.99 ERA with a 93/38 K/BB in 97 innings in Double-A.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Parker Bridwell, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 190 DOB: August 2, 1991
2011: Grade C; 2012: Grade C+; 2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C+
Bridwell has one of the best arms in the Orioles system; he’s really not that far behind a healthy Dylan Bundy in terms of pure physical talent, throwing a lively fastball between 92 and 95, a plus change-up, and a solid-average slider. The results have not always matched the talent due to spotty command but he made progress in that department last year in Double-A, having the best season of his pro career and earning a slot on the 40-man roster. Bridwell had a good record of durability until having elbow problems last summer; surgery was avoided due to platelet-rich injections and he is supposed to be okay in spring training. Assuming that’s true he’ll head to Triple-A with a chance for a major league promotion later in the year. If he maintains his command he can be a solid mid-rotation arm. Grade B-.
Coming off last year's elbow issues Bridwell has pitched 70 innings between Double-A, Triple-A, and some rookie ball rehab innings for a rib injury. He's posted a composite 4.13 ERA with a 53/31 K/BB and 62 hits allowed.
Although mainly a starter in the minors, I think he fits best in the bullpen right now. He remains inconsistent, even with his velocity: he topped out at 92 MPH last night. Reports from earlier in the year pegged him anywhere from 90 to 95, topping as high as 97 at his best. Both his slider and his change-up are impressive when he's going well, but he doesn't collect as many strikeouts as you'd expect from a pitcher with his kind of arm strength.
Given his inconsistency it is hard to know what to expect from Bridwell. The physical talent is obviously here and he has a reputation as a fierce competitor, but he hasn't quite put everything together yet.