The Breakout of Parker Bridwell: Is He Legit?

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If your baseball coach ever said to you, “just throw strikes, and let the defense take care of you,” they’d probably be a fan of Parker Bridwell.

Bridwell turned many heads this past season with his quick tempo and Jered Weaver-like mentality of competing hard and pounding the zone. 2017 could’ve been a fluke for Bridwell, but he is surely one of the most interesting pitchers to watch next season for the Angels. He doesn’t dominate, but he gets the job done.

His MLB career began in 2016, on the Baltimore Orioles. The right-hander was less than stellar, posting an eye-opening (and not in the good way) 13.50 ERA, coughing up 5 runs on 2 home runs in 3.1 innings. In his short stint, he also was pounded to a .357 opponents average. Bridwell was later DFAd by Baltimore on April 14, 2017, leading him to the Angels. They acquired him for cash, and then he was simply minor league depth. Unbeknown to the Angels, they’d have Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, Alex Meyer, Nick Tropeano, and J.C. Ramirez (another shrewd scoop up) miss time with injuries. Bridwell was then thrust into the big leagues again, but this time, something changed.

In 2017, Bridwell completely turned the corner, posting a solid 3.64 ERA in 121.0 IP, with 10 wins. The most interesting part to me is the lack of strikeouts. Parker Bridwell struck out just 74 batters in those 121 innings, an average of 5.43 K/9. By no stretch was he dominant, but he experienced a newfound level of success.

Bridwell, despite two rough starts against Oakland, and one against Seattle, also showed consistency in 2017. On day games, he posted a 3.61 ERA. At night games, he posted a 3.67 ERA. In the first half, his 3.24 ERA was followed it up with a 3.80 ERA in the second half. At home, he posted a 3.89 ERA, and at away games he had a 3.31 ERA. While these stats aren’t cy-young level, he can be expected to do a good job in many different situations.

While he was surprisingly effective last season, there are some issues he can look to fix, as there are doubts about his future. While the main stats were solid, a deeper dive into his future projections cast some doubt. Fangraphs.com projects a 5.01 ERA and a 5.17 FIP for next season, based on his 4.84 FIP this year. Yikes. They also project that he will only pitch 65.0 innings, and post a 4-4 record. This year appears to be make or break for Bridwell.

Despite some doubts, manager Mike Scioscia had high praise for Bridwell.

“I think he pitched to his potential …I don’t think that this is a guy that was overwhelmed….You look at the fact of where he came from, in the bullpen in the Minor Leagues, and all of a sudden he comes here and wins 10 games. He just needed the opportunity….Parker’s worked very hard and had a tremendous first shot at the big leagues, and we’re confident that it will continue.”

While youngsters like Luis Severino and Lance McCullers blow hitters away with fastballs in the high 90s, Bridwell’s primary pitch averages 92 mph. Another Angel who operated with slightly below average speed but impressive results is former ace Jered Weaver. While Weaver relied on his nasty change up more, both have showed the grit that’s needed to grind through a 162-game season.

Beyond a statistical jump that he experienced, Parker Bridwell is one of my favorite players to see pitch. His tempo is quick, and he is efficient in all aspects of his game. He could give up a home run and right away he’s ready for the next batter. This mentality is rare among young pitchers, but I’m glad to see it. As pace of play is discussed more than ever, a Bridwell start goes by quickly with little damage. Next season, the Angels will have Justin Upton for a full season behind Mike Trout and in front of Albert Pujols, so expect to see more offensive support. If Bridwell can continue his performance from last season, he could win 15-20 games and be a key component to their pitching rotation. Especially since the team has struggled with injuries in years past. With that said, there’s always the chance that he is a one-year wonder. Here’s to hoping that this surprise continues.

 

(image via zimbio.com)

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