Bradley on Padres top pitching prospects

Fort Wayne pitching coach Tom Bradley had as much talent on his team as anyone, mentoring young Padres prospect such as Cory Luebke, Mat Latos, Jeremy McBryde, Bryan Oland, Jackson Quezada, and Wynn Pelzer.

Cory Luebke also went through similar pains as (Corey) Kluber. Was there something you did to help him get on track?

Tom Bradley: I think the matter was trying to get rid of that, he's got a little bit of a toe tap with his right, when his right foot lands. He eliminated that pretty good. A matter of staying on top. His arm slot was pretty consistent up, so he gets a little better downward plane to his fastball. He's got to pitch down in the zone.

Also, a big thing for him was pitching in to right-handed hitters. I guess in the Cal league, he would go three innings and pound guys in. Then he'd get away from that and they'd start taking him the other way. He did a great job with pounding right-handed hitters; and lefties too for that matter. So, they're not looking out over the plate. Those things helped.

His changeup got better; he was able to start throwing it in fastball counts. His slider's kind of short, quick; it's not a big breaker. It's got a little bit of two-plane to it. He was able to throw more strikes; his walk totals were down. Still goes arm side high a little bit with his fastball, but was able to repeat his delivery when he would elevate. Sometimes he would elevate on purpose, obviously.

I think he also has got a very bright future, so hopefully he'll get off to a good start next year. He's kind of tough on himself a little bit, which is good. You like to see that from guys. You like them to have some fire and be disappointed. It makes them work that much harder next time. They both did well for us, both Kluber and Luebke.

You had Mat Latos early in the year before his oblique injury. What did you see from him that will allow him to be successful?

Tom Bradley: Obviously, he's got as good an arm as anybody in the organization; great body frame, athletic and all that. Got a power arm, power fastball. He's got to command it better at higher levels. He pitched some good games for us, unfortunately he got hurt. I guess he finished up pretty well in Eugene.

Obviously, he's got a plus fastball; 94-95 would make it better as he gets older and stronger. His curveball/slider is, I think they've shortened that up a little bit. He didn't throw it a lot with us, but I think it's gotten a little bit better. It's not swervy, it's kind of tight, got some depth to it.

Also, his changeup; I think his changeup's gotten better too. If he can learn to throw those three pitches over the plate consistently and pitch down in the zone better, and then elevate when he needs to, I think he'll do fine.

Obviously he's got the body that every pitcher craves to have. He's 6-foot-4, 210-215 pounds; he's got a great physique to be a pitcher. Gosh, you can't make them, or mold them any better than that. I think he turned it around a little bit these last few starts. Hopefully, next year he'll come to spring training and have a good spring and come to us or Lake Elsinore or wherever it might be. I think he got a little something out of the year, anyway, towards the end.

Jeremy McBryde had a solid season and really kept the ball in the strike zone. How has the changeup come along for him?

Tom Bradley: He started off kind of slow for us, pitching some tough luck. He came on real strong, was pitcher of the week and turned his season around. He lost this last outing, he gave up a double. We ended up losing 3-1, didn't score any runs. He really turned it around the last six weeks. I think the biggest thing with him is he maintained his high arm slot, which means he's able to get a good downward and downhill plane to his fastball. It's a power sinker. He's anywhere from 91-93, some he touches 94. He's got a good body, good frame.

I think when he starts using his legs a little bit more, he's only 21, there may be more in there. He started to pitch inside a little bit better, which he needs to do more of, pound those right-handed hitters. When he keeps his arm slot up and he's consistent, his slider was very good. There were some games where righties and lefties really didn't have much of a chance against his slider. He punched out 11; I think he ended up second in the league in strikeouts. He had 155 in 130-some innings. Plus, he only walked like 20-22 hitters. His strikeout to walk ratio was outstanding; probably as good as anybody in minor league baseball.

He gave up more hits than innings pitched – that came down a little bit. The reason for that is he throws too many strikes. He's around the plate so much. Twenty-some walks in 135 or 137 innings is phenomenal. So, it's a matter for him to maintain that arm slot, pitch downhill.

When he's ahead in the count, vary his slider, don't throw hittable pitches in the zone; expand the zone is what I'm trying to say. He did better at that towards the end. With runners on base, he got a lot better at pitching with runners on base. He was around the plate, around the zone, probably threw too many strikes. For everybody, it's a matter of making better quality pitches in the strike zone when you're ahead. That's what pitching boils down to, and then expanding the zone when you've got two strikes on the hitter. I think he learned a lot this year; he had a good year, finished up strong. I think he's got a bright future ahead of him too.

Bryan Oland was outstanding out of the bullpen and wasn't even on the roster when the year began. How was he so successful?

Tom Bradley: I don't care what league you're in. If you have an earned run average under 1.00 with all of the appearances he had, he just had an outstanding season. He was our setup guy, averaged better than a strikeout an inning. All the stats were phenomenal.

Those three pitches, his fastball is anywhere from 91 – 93, sometimes touches 94. He's a little upright in his delivery; as far as his finish goes, he throws fastballs up a little bit too much and, you know, we've talked to him about it – 93-94 is good up, but it's better down. So, that's something he's going to concentrate and focus on. He can get you out, he gets hitters out, that's the bottom line, he gets hitters out. He's equally good against righties and lefties. His slider is probably an average pitch. He throws it against right-handers to get ahead; it's got a little tilt to it.

But the pitch that separates him from everybody else is the changeup, and it's not a split. He does spread his fingers, and I didn't see anybody in this league square it up too often. That's how he got a lot of his strikeouts by expanding the zone. For me, he's got two above average pitches and he really put himself on the map with the year he had.

Like you said, he didn't even make a club out of spring training and came into our league and just dominated. So, he had a very good year. He's got a bright future too. He's got good days ahead of him.

Jackson Quezada was fantastic for you as the closer. What was the difference you saw in him from last year to this year?

Tom Bradley: Well, last year, he didn't pitch much the last three weeks of the season, he got hurt. He pitched well, I think he had 15, 16, 17 saves for us in Eugene in a short-season. We were in the eight-man for the first month and half, and Jackson didn't get his first save until April 29th. That makes the fact that he had 27 saves even that much greater of an accomplishment. His save percentage is outstanding. He was healthy all year. There was a stretch there, four or five days, where he pitched a lot. He led the league in appearances. He was out there a lot.

His fastball, not only is it above average, but it also has life in the strike zone too. He was very consistent. His worst outing was his first one of the year. I think he gave up three or four runs. From there on he was consistent throughout the rest of the season.

His slider got much better. He worked hard on that last year in Eugene. His arm speed has gotten better. He started getting outs and strikeouts with his slider. It was like 79-80. Now it's anywhere from 82-85, so that's a pitch that's going to serve him well in his future. He's got an above average fastball, throws a two-seamer occasionally. I told him, better leagues, better hitters, you're going to have to develop that pitch more. Pitch to those lefties with that fastball running away. He started working on a changeup too; in fact, he struck a hitter out in his last appearance on a changeup, a tough out from Great Lakes. Not only does he have a power fastball, but also his slider has gotten better and his changeup's gotten better. I look for him to do well down the road too.

How can he become as good versus lefties as righties?

Tom Bradley: I don't know what his percentages were, but I know there were some low, low batting averages and runs produced. Usually what separates those guys, are they able to get lefties out? For him to do that, he's got to be able to pitch to the outer part of the plate with some movement on his fastball, and vary the slider, throw the slider at the back foot of the lefty, which he'll be able to do because he's now acquired better arm speed. It was fun to watch him and Oland come in in the 8th and 9th inning because we were pretty sure that we were going to hold the lead or maintain the tie that they were involved in.

Wynn Pelzer was new to the changeup. How did he take to the pitch and what does he need to improve upon?

Tom Bradley: Wynn had a very good year for us. He was on an, obviously, an innings total, because last year in South Carolina, we had this policy that we don't want you throwing more than 50% of the innings you pitched in college. He only threw like 50 innings. We really watched what he did over the last month. We shut him down I think for 7-8 days between starts. He really put himself on the map. I know Grady and Bob Cluck, they think an awful lot of him, thought a lot of him in spring training and then as the season progressed even more so.

He's got electric stuff. His fastball really, really runs to the inner part of the plate against right-handed hitters. That will serve him well pitching against lefties, it's just natural movement. He's got anywhere from, usually his fastball is above average, 91 – 93, 94.

His slider is an out pitch, it's very hard. I think sometimes he gets slider happy, but it's a very, very useful out pitch for him. So, he's got two pitches that are out pitches right there and his changeup, which he didn't even throw last year. He couldn't go to instructional league because he got hit in the knee; in fact, Dykstra's the one that hit the line drive off his knee.

That was kind of ironic.

Tom Bradley: Yeah, very ironic. So, he didn't really have the luxury of working on the changeup very much. He came to spring training and started throwing it and really, really improved a lot. He's still got work to do on it. It's still sometimes too hard, but he really came a long way throwing that pitch.

In the winter time he'll have a program. He'll start throwing and getting that muscle memory. When he comes to spring training, I think people are going to see a marked improvement from last spring training because that changeup is going to be a very, very effective pitch for him.

He's a great kid, a great teammate, keeps everybody loose, good personality. Keeps everybody upbeat, never know what he's going to do next, just a real good person. Fun to be around, good teammate. I think, overall, we've got quite a few guys that can move through the system. They've got some arm strength and some pitch ability about them, it was fun working with them this year.

Where do all the pitchers you saw go from here?

Tom Bradley: You never know how things are going to play out at the next level. I haven't been in Elsinore, I haven't been in Double-A in a long time. I know that's what separates the prospects, the nut cracking time. You get to see if they do well in Double-A, many times they'll do pretty well in the big leagues too. I certainly think the stuff is there for the majority of the guys you asked me about. We're not talking 86-87 mph guys; we're talking guys who have average fastballs to above average fastballs with good secondary pitches too. They obviously have a chance to move through the system and do well. I'm excited about their development; excited for their future, look forward to watching them, seeing them further develop.

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