As we count down the days to 2018’s opening day, we take a look at the greatest Braves to wear each jersey number that’s been worn.
The greatest Brave to wear #72 is… the only Brave to wear #72, 2016 reliever Jed Bradley.
After a stellar college career at Georgia Tech, Milwaukee drafted Bradley 15th overall in the 2011 draft. Before the 2012 season, both Baseball America (#71) and MLB.com (#97) named Bradley among their 100 best prospects, before he ever pitched a professional inning. His pro debut was inauspicious – he allowed 15.0 H+BB per 9 innings, and he struck out only 5.0 per 9. His 5.53 ERA in advanced A-ball scared the prospect watchers off for good. While his stats improved marginally as he worked his way up the ladder, he had a AA era of 6.20 when Atlanta traded a PTBNL or cash to acquire him in 2016.
Bradley responded well to the trade, posting a 2.35 ERA with AA Mississippi and a 1.50 mark at AAA Gwinnett. On September 1, Atlanta included Bradley in its roster expansion. On September 3, 2016, Bradley entered the bottom of the 9th in a 4-4 tie in Philadelphia. After a 1-2-3 inning, the Braves scored two runs in the top of the 10th, and Bradley received the victory in his MLB debut. Despite 5 more appearances, it would be the only victory Bradley would ever participate in at the MLB level. He surrendered runs in each of his next three outings and finished the season with a 5.14 ERA, 6 walks, and only 4 strikeouts across 7 MLB innings, all while wearing #72.
Baltimore claimed Bradley on waivers in the offseason, and after some struggles at AA, Bradley retired in May 2017 at the age of 26.
Is Bradley the greatest #72 of all time?
No. That’d be Carlton Fisk, who wore #72 for the entirety of his White Sox years.
Pat Neshek had a pretty good debut season wearing the number for the ’06 Twins, and Jack McDowell was average-ish over his last 18 starts as he finished his career with the Angels.
Also better than Bradley: Xander Bogaerts (2013 Red Sox), Slade Heathcott (2015 Yankees). But that might be it.