Prospect of the Day: Jackie Bradley Jr, OF, Boston Red Sox
He wasn't in the Futures Game, but one of the most exciting outfield prospects in the minors right now is Boston Red Sox flycatcher Jackie Bradley, Jr.. The hero of the 2010 College World Series, the former South Carolina Gamecocks star is thriving in the Red Sox system, just a year removed from a disappointing college coda.
Bradley was an impact player right away as a freshman at South Carolina, hitting .349/.430/.537 in 63 games in 2009. He was even better in 2010, hitting .368/.473/.587 with 13 homers and 41 walks, all the while showing outstanding defense. Considered a certain lock for a first-round choice entering 2011 and possibly a Top Ten guy, Bradley was limited to 42 games last spring by a wrist injury, and was less than impressive when he did play, hitting .247/.346/.432. The switch to the less-potent metal bats last spring sapped his home power, and the injury kept him sidelined in the weeks before the draft. However, his glove remained well-regarded, and scouts didn't forget his past track record. The Red Sox were among the optimists and use a supplemental first round pick on him, 40th overall, for a $1,100,000 bonus.
With the wrist injury in the rear-view mirror, Bradley is thriving. He began with a .359/.480/.526 mark in 67 games for High-A Salem this spring, with an excellent 52/40 BB/K ratio in 234 at-bats, along with 16 steals in 22 attempts. Promoted to Double-A Portland three weeks ago, he's hitting .350/.424/.463 with nine walks and 19 strikeouts in 80 at-bats. His strikeout rate has spiked against better pitching, and he's had some early issues with lefties (hitting .250/.300/.357) but overall he's doing quite well with the transition.
Bradley is a 5-10, 180 pound left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, born April 19, 1990 in Richmond, Virginia. Although his pure speed isn't spectacular, he runs the bases well. On defense, he is an excellent and occasionally brilliant defender in center field, due to his tremendous instincts and ability to track the ball. His arm has above-average strength and accuracy, and many scouts feel he could win Gold Gloves.
His glove alone would make him an interesting prospect, but Bradley adds a potent bat to the mix. Although he hasn't shown a lot of home run power since losing the high-octane metal bats he used in '09 and '10, he's got plenty of pop to the gaps, knocking 34 doubles already this year. He has a good feel for the strike zone and quick hands, and while he's never going to be a gigantic power threat, I suspect he'll eventually hit more homers than he currently does. Bradley needs to make some adjustments against left-handed pitching, and scouts have noticed occasional troubles with inside pitches, but these issues seem fixable, and no one has ever questioned his work ethic and makeup.
Overall, while there are a few unanswered questions here, Bradley has numerous strengths and should reach the majors sometime in 2013.