The Cleveland Indians had a bit of a shakeup near the top at this year’s deadline. Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield (and the promising Ben Heller along with J.P. Feyereisen) were traded to the New York Yankees in the Andrew Miller deal, and Francisco Mejia was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy… for about three hours.
Mejia went back to Lynchburg to join first baseman Bobby Bradley in a potent lineup for the Hillcats that have them as the best team in the Carolina League this year. Bradley is doing more of the same in his second full season as a pro.
I tend to agree with John’s preseason assessment in his 2016 Prospect Guide:
I love this guy.
What’s not to like? Ever since Bradley was drafted in the third round of the 2014 MLB Draft he has raked. His big frame — he stands at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds — and solid left handed swing gave him the power profile future All Stars are made out of, but questionable skills on defense and a commitment in the SEC scared teams off.
The Indians are reaping the rewards as Bradley is becoming one of the best prospects in the game.
(As always — I am not a scout. I have watched video and Bradley on MiLB TV like the average fan. This is more of a profile of research and video than a scouting report, so those of you whom have seen him live may have more or differing input, which is always welcomed in the comments).
Bradley is in the mold of your modern day power hitter. He strikes out. He strikes out often, but in today’s game, some managers and baseball guys alike will tell you that if you can produce runs in the heart of the lineup, whether that is by putting the ball over the wall consistently or performing with runners on the bases, strikeouts matter less and less. Bradley does all of that.
Here’s a look at Bradley’s swing from 2080 Baseball.
The now-20 year old seems to be growing into all of that raw power he showed from day one. Bradley had a monster half-season debut in the Arizona League, slashing .361/.426/.652 with eight home runs and 13 doubles in just 39 games, taking home the Triple Crown. His encore performance in Low-A last season was just as enticing. He slashed .269/.361/.529, leading the Midwest League in home runs by a landslide with 27 (the next closest was Casey Gillaspie’s 16 albeit in much fewer games). He struck out an insanely high 31.8 percent of the time (148 times in 465 at bats) but was able to generate walks, drawing a free pass 56 times over the same span.
Minus a two game stint in which he finished 2015 in High-A, 2016 has been a strong debut season in the Carolina League. Stuck between the pitcher-friendly FSL and the power-happy California League, Bradley’s game at the advanced level seems to translate into the player he is.
He is currently slashing .246/.356/.485. Despite a still incredibly high strikeout rate of 30.3 percent, Bradley’s other stats are seemingly falling into place. His ISO is .242, on the low side but still in the realm of where a true power hitter should fall. His wRC+ is the lowest of his young career, but at 132 he is performing well above average. And again, despite all of those strikeouts, he has seen his walk rate climb for the third consecutive season to 13.6 percent.
He also currently leads the Carolina League in home runs and RBI, which is becoming the norm.
Looking elsewhere, there is also a lot to like in Bradley’s game. While his power is primarily to the pull side, he has shown the ability to find gaps and use the whole field. His power seemingly comes against right handers more so than lefties, but the splits are quite comparable, sitting at .246 with eight home runs in 142 at bats against lefties and .246 with 18 home runs in 285 at bats against righties. He excels with runners in scoring position, slashing .275/.385/.585, driving in 76 of his 95 runs on the season posting a 46:23 strikeout-to-walk rate in 142 at bats.
Bradley’s biggest set back is his defense, as he is destined for first base or designated hitter. His 20 grade speed doesn’t make him seem apt for a corner outfield position despite his bat profiling that it could be. A history of errors also suggests that Bradley should stick at the position he currently mans, focusing his efforts on honing his craft. This season, he seems to be doing that posting a career best .986 fielding percentage and showing improved range and feel for the bag.
He is still just 20 years old. He has shown improvements every year that he has played. It will be exciting to see what Bradley can do next season at Double-A. With what he has already shown over his brief professional tenure, if the Indians give Bradley two more years in the minors, the sky may be the limit for their future first baseman.