There is no shortage of reasons Enrique Bradfield Jr. was the No. 17 pick in July’s draft.
Top-notch speed. Excellent understanding of the strike zone. A reliable bat.
One of the most important might be a high-end competitiveness that permitted the outfielder to thrive in three seasons at Vanderbilt — and advance to High-A Aberdeen in his first, truncated season in Baltimore’s farm system.
“I just don’t like to lose, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there,” Bradfield said last week after his promotion from Single-A Delmarva. “I don’t know where it came from. I think it was something I was probably born with and instilled in me from a young age. I’ve always kind of had it during my playing days. I definitely look to tap into my competitiveness in pro ball and see where it takes me.”
The early signs are promising. Bradfield was 5 for 9 in three Florida Complex League games, then hit .304 with six RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 17 games at Delmarva.
That earned him a one-week look at Aberdeen, where he was 2 for 17 (.118) with four stolen bases in five games for the IronBirds. The quick promotion not only moved him a step closer to the majors, but also was a notable accomplishment a relatively small percentage of this year’s class achieved in the nearly two months since the draft.
And, in retrospect, Bradfield acknowledged it was something he had in mind when he signed with Baltimore.
“There’s always a thought like that,” Bradfield said. “You have goals and standards you want to set for yourself, and for me I was looking to get my feet wet in Delmarva and I want to be able to get my foundation and footing there and hopefully I can finish the year in Aberdeen. I’m here now, so I’m proud of myself for that.”
It helped that he had an excellent sense of what to expect even before turning pro. Vanderbilt has become a baseball factory over the last two decades, exporting prospects on an annual basis. And the results have been there, too; the Commodores have five College World Series appearances and two titles since 2011.
That includes the national runner-up Bradfield played on in 2021, when he led the SEC with 46 steals and earned conference rookie of the year honors. He was a consensus All-America pick as a sophomore and slashed .279/.410/.429 as a junior this spring.
In addition to having contact with players who went on to the next level, he also was immersed in the most competitive college baseball league. That undoubtedly made his adjustment a bit smoother, and even with a bumpy week at Aberdeen he still posted a .473 on-base percentage in 25 minor-league games thanks in part to taking 26 walks.
“I feel like my experiences have definitely translated,” Bradfield said. “A lot of the games we played in were big-time games in front of a lot of people, and that’s probably helping me the most out of anything — just the knowledge I was able to build up over three years of experiences at Vanderbilt.”
The tool that arguably stood out the most over the last month was speed. Bradfield averaged a stolen base a game, succeeding on 25 of his 27 attempts.
It’s a top-of-the-order asset, but his zest for the game is also clearly going to be one of his advantages while making the climb to the majors.
“He’s definitely got a fire under him when he’s out there on the field,” said Mac Horvath, the Orioles’ second-round pick who was promoted from Delmarva to Aberdeen at the same time as Bradfield. “He just has a flip that he can switch and when it’s on, he’s 100 percent.”
The roughly month-long sample also provided a glimpse on what Bradfield’s offseason priorities could be. After slugging .447 over three college seasons, that percentage dipped to .329 as he collected three extra-base hits (all doubles) in 79 at-bats in the minors.
Little wonder what the left-handed hitting Bradfield already plans to concentrate on in the months to come.
“I have some strength and conditioning goals in mind,” Bradfield said. “I want to get stronger. I want to get a little bit bigger. That’s going to help me play my game better and stay on the field more and be healthy, so I definitely have that in mind. … This month and a half has been a very nice experience to be able to build what my offseason training is going to look like.”
* Aberdeen wrapped up its season on a six-game winning streak Sunday to finish above .500 for the second half (34-31) and for the season (66-63). The IronBirds closed out the second half 3 ½ games behind Brooklyn and Jersey Shore in the South Atlantic League’s North Division.
* Delmarva also completed its season Sunday. The Shorebirds went 28-37 in the second half to finish fifth in the Carolina League’s six-team North Division. Delmarva was 56-74 for the year.