Bradley working hard on encore to his great pro debut
Power is a scarce resource throughout Major League Baseball. It is an age of offensive regression in the game, so when you have a young prospect in your system with the potential to impact with his power at the big league level someday it can be tough to control your excitement.
That’s what the Indians have at the moment in first base prospect Bobby Bradley.
Bradley, 18, was selected in the third round of the 2014 Draft out of high school and made an immediate impression with the Indians this past season.
“It is the best feeling ever,” Bradley said about being drafted by the Indians. “It was an amazing experience. I kind of thought I was crazy the first day turning down that money but in the end it was worth it. I am living out my dream becoming a professional baseball player and [hopefully] one day make it to the MLB.”
There was some concern whether or not Bradley would even sign with the Indians as he had a pretty strong commitment to LSU and wanted a good chunk of change to sign. The Indians eventually settled on a well above slot signing bonus or $912,500 to begin a marriage between the two that they hope one day ends up in him showcasing his offensive firepower in Progressive Field.
“That was the college I always wanted to go to since I was five years old,” Bradley said. “Ever since I knew what college was it was always LSU. My summer after my freshman year I went to camp there and they ended up liking me and offering me. So it was a dream come true.”
Leading up to the draft Bradley worked out with former major leaguers Matt Lawton and Ryan Theriot. Both of them shared their experience with Bradley about playing professionally and what to expect in the minors leagues after he signed. Lawton resides in the same town as Bradley in Gulfport, Mississippi and Theriot lives a little over an hour away.
But even though they provided Bradley with a good background going into his pro debut, the butterflies were still swirling when he stepped up to the plate his first time as a professional.
“The [Indians] gave me time to practice but when I did see my name in the lineup the first time I was like ‘finally, I get my shot’,” Bradley recalled. “I was good all the way up until that first at bat and that was when the butterflies hit. After that first at bat everything loosened up and I was me again. Once I get between the lines I get zoned in.”
And boy did he ever get zoned in.
In 39 games in the Arizona League he hit .361 with 8 HR, 50 RBI and 1.078 OPS. He won the Arizona League MVP with his offensive explosion and domination of the league. He was all over the league leaderboard finishing 1st in hitting (.361), 2nd in on-base percentage (.426), 1st in slugging percentage (.652), 1st in OPS (1.078), tied for 1st in runs (39), 3rd in hits (56), 3rd in doubles, tied for 8th in triples (4), 1st in home runs (8), 1st in RBI (50) and 1st in total bases (101).
That’s an impressive debut and one not seen in the Indians system from a young high school hitter in probably over 20 years when Manny Ramirez was a young man and just plucked out of the Bronx.
That’s not to say that Bradley is the next Manny Ramirez, and besides the Arizona League has been known to inflate offensive numbers, but the performance is something that no Indians high school hitter has shown in their pro debut in some time. Dorssys Paulino had a similar showing in 2012, but he is from the Dominican Republic and was an international signing.
Even with such an impressive power showing, what made Bradley happy about his year was how he put up good at bats and limited strikeouts.
“I kept the strikeouts down,” Bradley said. “I had 155 at bats and had 36 strikeouts. If I stay like that over the course of 500 at bats I would be happy. I want to manage the strikeouts. It gives you a better opportunity to hit the ball in fair territory and to boost the batting average and RBI.”
That’s not to say Bradley is satisfied with the strikeout totals. A focus point for him going forward will be to get better at controlling the strike zone, not chasing pitches out of the zone and being more patient to swing at pitches he can drive.
“I am working on my discipline,” Bradley noted. “If they want to walk me I will take the walk as that is on-base percentage. If not, then just find a good pitch to hit - my pitch - and as the count moves into the pitchers favor just battle and put a good swing on it.”
Defense is still a work in progress for Bradley. After playing third base, catcher and outfield in high school he moved to first base at the tail end of his junior year and spent all of his senior season at first. While he is still getting acclimated to the position he feels he is gaining more comfort there.
“I just got into it and I love it,” Bradley said. “It is a big adjustment but I am starting to get the hang of it. In the offseason I am going to work with Theriot on the defense a lot more than hitting. Even though I don’t have the hitting down, I am far enough ahead where defense can be more of a priority this offseason. Toward the last couple of months I will get back into hitting full time. I am going to be a whole new defensive player next season.”
Not only did Bradley have a lot of fun at the plate last season, but his team also had a lot of fun on the field. The team was filled with a lot of new players in the organization from all parts of the country and world who spoke different languages and were from different cultures, but they found a way to blend together well and had a great season.
“It was really fun,” Bradley said. “Nobody was ever serious until we stepped in between the lines. When you are in the dugout between innings we were always goofing off and just having a good time and just trying to teach each other our own little languages and stuff. Then as soon as we got back in the box or between the lines on the field all of that went away and we were serious again.”
Playing with a mix of American and Latin players was something that was new for Bradley.
“It was a very different experience coming in,” Bradley said. “Some of them don’t even look Dominican or Puerto Rican and I would go up and say hi and they would speak to me in Spanish. I would be like, ‘wow, okay.’ I can pick up Spanish, but I can’t say anything.”
They finished the season with the league’s best record at 37-16 and won the league championship. Even though no one was really there to see it since there is no fan following in the complex leagues, they still celebrated like they won Game Seven of the World Series.
“We had a little dogpile on the field and drenched [manager Anthony] Medrano in water,” Bradley said. “We came back to the clubhouse and they had non-alcoholic drinks and we sprayed it all over the outdoor patio. The locker room was crazy. We all had to pack and leave the next day and everybody was jumping up and down and throwing stuff everywhere. It was a mess.”
After the Arizona League season completed Bradley went home to Mississippi for a few weeks before returning to Arizona in mid-September for the Fall Instructional League. Over the month long session he received a lot of one-on-one instruction and the organization set the foundation for his offseason plan so that he can come into spring training an even better player than he was this past season.
“I am taking the first two to three months off and do my hunting and fishing and hang out with my friends,” Bradley said about his offseason plans. “Come January I will go down to Baton Rouge on Sunday nights or Monday mornings and train there all week long and after training on Friday mornings I will come back home for the weekends. I will just keep doing that until it is time to come back [to Arizona for spring training.]”
As for Bradley’s goals for next season?
“Mainly next year I am going to build on my defense and cut down on the errors and keep the strikeouts down,” Bradley said. “Hopefully they send me to Low-A or High-A next year, but as long as I play a full season I will be happy. It doesn’t matter where.”
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This off season is different from the past, it appears the major additions are coming from the minors, instead of trades or free agency.
If only, the Cleveland Indians had a consistent feed from their minor leagues each year.
Is the current status of the minor league teams and their players at a level where a consistent stream of quality players are to be expected?
NRod and Bradley both represent legit power specs with high upside.
The Indians currently hold a better first round pick and have a competitive balance pick in the same range (within a few picks) as last yr. The Indians could pickup another haul of talent comparable to last yrs draft. I hope this yr they are able to land some high upside SP (not necessarily HS specs). Of course, I don't want them to deviate from BPA...just hopeful they can land some FOR - MOR type specs.
Offense production is down at every level, even at AZL, so his (and Chang's) numbers were even more impressive, especially considering his age. He was a very young 18, just turned before the draft.
That said, there are still some obvious holes he has to work on. He was "only" 10-42 without a HR and .673 OPS vs LHP, but the 6:11 BB:K there was encouraging. He absolutely owned AZL RHP though: .407BA, .460 OBP, .770 SLG. That's insane, no matter what level.
I agree that because of the Bradley hype, Nellie Rod's season has gone a bit under the radar. He should be in the top 20 somewhere, but there are about 25 specs in the system you can say that about. Of course, Rodriguez is 2 years older and repeated at Lake County after failing there in 2013, so if Bradley comes even close to NRod's numbers it would be a huge step in his development, especially if he can emulate his in-season progress. NRod's monthly OPS from June to August: .867, .931, .964 with ISO over .200 in all 3 months. He also has a lot of upside left, especially since he had strange revers splits only hitting .200 with a .607 OPS vs LHP as a RHB, which is very unusual. If or when he figures out how to take advantage of that, watch out.
Both Bradley and NRod are ahead of where Aguilar was at the same age, so there's an extra reason to be really excited about both going forward. Finally the Indians have some legit power bats in the system again.
An exact number is not realistic, but a range would be nice for the best four hiters in this draft.
Really excited that he has such a strong focus on the strikeouts and overall plate discipline.