Orioles introduce first-round pick Enrique Bradfield Jr., adding another young talent to ‘healthy’ organization

18 July 2023

In the wake of his lowest top draft pick as Orioles general manager, Mike Elias quipped that the organization’s continual promotions of its top prospects would soon begin to hamper its status as the majors’ top-ranked farm system.

But Tuesday, as he and the Orioles officially introduced the player chosen with that No. 17 selection — Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. — Elias said he believes Baltimore could meld that recognition with its rise at the major league level.

“I’ve used the word ‘healthy’ a lot, but to me, that’s how I would describe the state of the Orioles organization right now,” Elias said. “We’ve got a young, talented major league team that’s not going anywhere, and then we’ve got a historically good group in the minor leagues that’s coming and now, we’ve got guys like [Bradfield].

“We want to keep picking down here. That’s the goal. Hopefully, we’re in the 20s and stay there for a while. Hopefully, we can demonstrate we can keep feeding our organization with low first-round picks. For me, I think this is an important step for us, his pick, and I’m very confident it’s going to go well.”

Regarded as an elite runner and defender in center field, Bradfield became the Orioles’ lowest first-round draftee under Elias, with the four precedents all being selected in the first five picks. Two, 2019′s No. 1 Adley Rutschman and 2021′s No. 5 Colton Cowser, are now in the majors, part of a team that holds baseball’s third-best record. The others, 2020′s No. 2 Heston Kjerstad and 2022′s No. 1 Jackson Holliday, are both in the upper minors as part of that well-regarded farm system, with Holliday viewed as baseball’s top overall prospect even before his ascension to Double-A at 19 years old.

Given where he was picked, Bradfield did not even make the top 100 of most publications’ lists in the wake of the draft, but he landed with an organization that has a proven capability of getting him there. About a dozen Orioles prospects have appeared in a given top 100 list over the past six months, with half of them reaching the majors at some point this year.

“When I look around and see the younger guys on the team in the major leagues, everybody’s maximizing their potential,” Bradfield said. “I feel like with the coaching staff and the coaches in this organization, I’m going to be able to find that next step and maximize my potential. I’m really excited to see what that journey looks like for me.”

Seated between Elias and signing scout Trent Friedrich in Camden Yards’ auxiliary clubhouse, Bradfield acknowledged that he has steps to take in his offensive game, seeking “more consistency” in particular. He felt he had already grown in several areas in his time at Vanderbilt, describing himself as a “timid” base runner as a Florida high school player before developing into one of the top base-stealing threats in the premier Southeastern Conference. Over three seasons, he stole 130 bases while being caught only 13 times and posted a career slash line of .311/.426/.447. He hit only 15 home runs, though Elias expressed after the draft that the Orioles felt he had enough power to fit his top-of-the-order profile.

After signing for his slot value of just under $4.17 million, Bradfield is part of an organization that has shown an aptitude for developing hitters.

“Being a part of this organization, having the right coaches, the mentors to be able to guide me in the right direction is going to be really fun,” Bradfield said. “I think I’m going be able to do it rather quite quick.”

The Orioles are in no rush to get him to the majors, with a solid young team featuring an established outfield in which every player is under team control for at least one more season. But Elias said it’s vital for Baltimore to continue to restock its minor league rosters through the draft, even as it hopes to continue its success at the major league level.

This year’s team has shown the effectiveness of its drafting efforts thus far, with more talent en route. The draft becomes particularly important when considering the Orioles’ level of investment in external players — both in terms of expenditures for free agents and prospects given up in trades — has been relatively low, though the latter of those avenues could change dramatically before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

Should Baltimore part with any minor leaguers in the coming weeks, there’s a high chance it will be someone drafted under Elias. In Bradfield and the 21 players selected after him in the team’s 2023 draft class, the Orioles have a group available to replenish a minor league system that has already lost a handful of prospects to promotions and figures to have more losses coming, either in the same fashion or through the moves the front office makes to improve this year’s major league group.

“This is kind of the lifeblood of our organization, what we do, and it’s shown up on the field here for the Orioles, the importance of the draft and the strength of our drafts,” Elias said. “And this year is no different.

“It’s important for us to keep feeding that pipeline because I know how good our competitors are at doing the same thing, and to me, this is the path for this franchise to continue to be successful, really doing a great job with scouting and player development, so we’re always going to keep that close to heart.”


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