No. 5 prospect Bradfield Jr. is burning up the basepaths

May 29th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ABERDEEN, Md. -- This season, catchers throughout the South Atlantic League are learning how difficult it is to throw out Enrique Bradfield Jr. on the basepaths. That’s been the case since the Orioles' outfield prospect -- who is currently playing at High-A Aberdeen -- first suited up for Vanderbilt University in 2021.

Over three seasons with the Commodores, Bradfield went 130-for-143 on stolen-base attempts, including 46-for-46 in 2022. He was also 4-for-4 in 11 games with the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League in ‘22.

After Bradfield was selected by Baltimore with the No. 17 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, he brought his 80-grade speed and elite baserunning skills to the Minor League ranks. The 22-year-old went 25-for-27 on stolen-base attempts in 25 games last year between the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Orioles, Single-A Delmarva and Aberdeen. Bradfield is 22-for-26 in 30 games for Aberdeen this season.

Obviously, Bradfield is fast. But there’s more to stealing bases than pure speed. He must read the pitcher and pick the right moment to strike.

“I just pay attention to smaller details, and that’s going back to the time I spent at Vanderbilt,” said Bradfield, the O’s No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “When I showed up there, I was just a guy with speed, but I didn’t really know how to use it. Being able to work around the staff and learn from them, that gave me all the confidence I needed to be able to look at minor details, come up with a game plan, do research and then go into the game and just be free and play.”

Those are the same reasons why Bradfield is excelling in other areas of his offensive game.

Bradfield had a slow start to his first full professional season, hitting .216 (11-for-51) with a .624 OPS over his first 14 games this year for the IronBirds. In 16 games since, he's batted .300 (18-for-60) with an .801 OPS.

“His aptitude for learning is just immense,” Aberdeen hitting coach Zach Cole said. “He understands, ‘All right, this pitcher’s doing this. This is what he’s going to try to do to me, and this is how I can go about this at-bat and attack him.’

“The tools are just there.”

It typically doesn’t take long for Bradfield to impact a game while batting leadoff for the IronBirds. Last Thursday vs. Jersey Shore, he opened the bottom of the first with a single, immediately stole second and scored on a Tavian Josenberger triple. The next night, Bradfield again hit a leadoff single and then stole second.

“It’s cool, because you see him hit a single or get a walk or whatever happens, [and] before you know it, he’s going to end up on third base,” said Aberdeen catcher Creed Willems, Baltimore’s No. 29 prospect. “Seeing a guy with that type of speed, it’s crazy.”

Although Bradfield got only a five-game taste of High-A late in 2023, he said that experience helped him learn what to expect from the pitching at the level. It also was beneficial for him to play in six Grapefruit League contests during Major League Spring Training.

The next step for Bradfield will be moving up to Double-A Bowie, a promotion that should happen later this year. From there, his focus will remain on ascending the ranks.

“The end goal is the Major Leagues, so in order for that to happen, I would have to jump some levels,” Bradfield said. “I’m just trying to take it day by day, get better by 1 percent. I can’t build this thing overnight. I’m going to need these experiences so I can fall back on them when I’m at higher levels.”

Here are some additional recent Minor League highlights:

Triple-A Norfolk

hit a leadoff home run in the Tides’ 4-2 loss to Gwinnett on Tuesday. The 20-year-old infielder and MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect has six homers in 37 Triple-A games this season, four of which have been leadoff blasts.

Holliday is hitting .243 (25-for-103) with four homers and 12 RBIs in 27 games since the Orioles optioned him back to Norfolk on April 26.

Double-A Bowie

Samuel Basallo (O’s No. 2 prospect, No. 14 overall) extended his hitting streak to seven games on Wednesday. The 19-year-old catcher is 12-for-28 (.429) with two homers and seven RBIs over that span, which includes four multihit efforts.

Single-A Delmarva

Stiven Acevedo has been on a tear of late. The 21-year-old outfielder, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, is 10-for-17 (.588) with one double, one homer and five RBIs over his past five games entering Wednesday.