The time has finally come.
Pitcher Taj Bradley will make his MLB debut tonight as he and the Tampa Bay Rays go up against the Boston Red Sox. Bradley is the Rays’ top prospect, and also the 18th-ranked MLB prospect overall. He is looking to not only impress in his first lick of Major League ball but potentially keep the Rays undefeated at 12-0.
Bradley, who has been highly touted for a few years now since being drafted in the fifth round out of high school, hasn’t put up the most appealing numbers to start out his 2023 campaign. Still, an IL stint for Zach Eflin warranted the move, and the Rays decided on going the youthful route instead of choosing a veteran like Yonny Chirinos or Luis Patino.
When Taj Bradley takes the bump for the Rays tonight, it’ll be the 2nd time since 1900 that a team on a 10+ game win streak will start a pitcher making his debut.
The Braves did it in their final game of the 1969 reg. season, losing with a 19-year-old Mike McQueen on the mound. pic.twitter.com/ZgljPkaEPV
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 12, 2023
With that said, some fans may not know much about the young phenom, so here is what you need to know about the 22-year-old right-hander.
Bradley, a 2018 fifth-round selection out of Redan High School, has put up stellar numbers over his time in the Rays organization. He boasts a minor-league career ERA of 2.66, putting up most of his stellar numbers during his middle years in the minors. Bradley is someone who tends to pitch better when facing right-handed hitters, keeping opposing right-handed hitters below a .200 batting average. He features a four-pitch repertoire, with his fastball and cutter being his main pitches. Beyond that, Bradley is someone who not only posts the numbers but is also someone who has racked up the achievements, earning Pitcher of the Year in the Southern League in 2022 and also appearing in last year’s 2022 MLB Futures Game.
The only downside with Bradley, which is nothing against him in terms of talent, is his lack of Triple-A experience and quality of play. Although he smoothly progressed through the lower levels of the minors, he has yet to put up the numbers that you would hope for in a Triple-A call-up, posting a 5.40 ERA early on this year. While this could be a cause for concern early on, Taj Bradley is someone who could easily impress tonight just based on his past success. But with a Boston lineup that is quite formidable and a historic undefeated start by the Rays on the line, the pressure could be on for Bradley in his first start.
Is Taj Bradley Ready for His Debut?
Taj Bradley, on paper, has all the tools to be a solid starter in the league. However, given his subpar performance in Triple-A so far, there is some uncertainty heading into tonight’s contest. If Bradley can deliver a solid four to five innings and only allow one to two runs at most, you would have to be satisfied with his debut start, especially on short notice. That would be beneficial for the young starter as he kicks off his big-league career.
It may be difficult for Bradley to establish himself in a rotation role, especially with Eflin and Tyler Glasnow scheduled to make returns in short order. But if he impresses, he could potentially make a spot for himself as a 6th man or even in a long relief role if the Rays decide to go that route with the 22-year-old.
Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports