The Power of Bobby Bradley
David Freier | On 01, Jun 2016
Bobby Bradley is the 19-year-old from Gulfport, Mississippi, who was selected in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He has anchored the cleanup spot in the High-A Lynchburg lineup this season, currently leading the Carolina League in home runs with eleven, two ahead of Aderlin Rodriguez of Fredrick, a player who has already had substantial experience at the AA level and is five years older than Bradley. Bradley is also pacing the league with 43 RBI and 35 walks.
His passion for baseball began at the age of four, in T-ball, and has been growing ever since.
“I kind of had a knack for it then,” Bradley said. “I loved playing and that was pretty much all I wanted to do. I started thinking I could be a professional when I was in the tenth grade, and even more so after I had committed to LSU.”
Instead of going to LSU he signed with the Indians and has performed exceptionally thus far in his professional career. The 6’1”, 225 pound first baseman bats from the left side and has natural raw power coiled up in his quick, compact swing. In the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2014 his eight home runs, 50 RBI, and .361 batting average earned him a triple crown and helped lead the team to the championship. Last season, at Low-A Lake County of the Midwest League, he hit 27 home runs to lead that circuit.
Though young, he keeps within himself and works to improve his skills and get the most out of his natural raw talent. Now in his third season he has reached the Advanced-A level at Lynchburg and is rising to the challenges that come with playing in the Carolina League.
He has worked with current Hillcats hitting coach Larry Day for two consecutive seasons. “There are some mechanical things we work on daily,” said coach Day, “his hip shoulder separation and timing his load to make sure he gets into a good posture to hit.”
This means trying to get Bradley to drive the ball to the middle of the field, rather than pulling the ball to right as is his natural tendency.
Some of the opposing Carolina League teams have begun to use a shift when Bradley comes to bat, in particular the Salem Red Sox, who move their third baseman to second base and the second baseman into short right field in a shift that gives them a fielder similar to the rover in softball.
“I’m not changing anything. I’m staying with the center-opposite field approach,” said Bradley about handling the shift.
It is his dedication to the daily grind of baseball that keeps Bradley successful. He puts in early work in the batting cage and then focuses on hitting balls to the middle and opposite fields during batting practice.
Asked about how they handle the shift on Bradley, Lynchburg manager Mark Budzinski said, “We talked about it a little bit. For right now we don’t want him to do anything differently, just stay within himself and focus on his game.”
On his current pace of six home runs per month, Bradley has the potential to hit 30 home runs in a Hillcats uniform. This would surpass the 29 hit by Aramis Ramirez as a Hillcat and tie the franchise record of 30 hit by Randy Bass in 1974. Ramirez would go on to a long career with several Major League clubs. Bass played for five different Major League teams, but would make his mark playing six seasons for the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Pacific Coast League, where he totaled 202 home runs (including a 54-home run season).
Bradley has the chance to make his own mark in the Majors with his power.
Bradley is ranked as the top power hitter in the Cleveland farm system by Baseball America. He is working on cutting down his strikeout rate, which currently hovers at about 30%, and is trying to draw more walks, where his league leading total indicates his progression. His most recent ten-game stretch exemplifies his struggles and his development.
In a stretch of 37 at-bats he had seven hits, seven walks and eleven strikeouts. The final two games of this ten-game run showcase the opposite ends of the spectrum for what Bradley can be as a hitter. In the May 25th game against the visiting Wilmington Blue Rocks, Bradley had four plate appearances, driving a single to right field, striking out once, pulling a pitch to the second baseman for a straightforward 4-3 putout, and hitting a towering fly ball to center field that was caught by Blue Rocks center fielder Cody Jones just shy of the wall. The Hillcats lost 9-6 and Bradley played a minimal role in the offense.
The next night was the opposite. After striking out in his first at bat, he hit a fly ball to left field in his second at bat, going the other way with a pitch he was just a second off of connecting on. In the fifth inning he jumped on a fastball from reliever Colin Rodgers that he launched over the right field wall for a line drive home run. In his final plate appearance he hit another drive to deep center field bidding to have his first two-homer game of the season.
In the first of these two games Wilmington defused his power, keeping him hitting balls to the right side of the field. In the second Bradley used the whole field more effectively. Even though the park kept several of them inside, he was better at working with what the pitchers gave him, rather than trying to pull the ball. As he gains experience and maturity he will become better at handling what pitchers offer and turning some of those deep fly balls into home runs.
“I’m keeping an open mind on things,” said Bradley about adjusting to the challenges of playing in the Carolina League, “seeing what the game allows me to do. It’s just a little bit faster than last year in Lake County. You see the same pitchers a lot more than usual here.”
Since there are only eight teams in the Carolina League and there is an unbalanced schedule, teams tend to play each other frequently for stretches of the season. Right now the league’s pitching has begun to figure out some of the holes in the Hillcats offense, but Bradley and the team are confident in their abilities and continue to adjust as they work on developing to their full potential.
Like the lyrics in his walk-up song, “U Supposed to Shine”, by Lil Cali featuring Kevin Gates,
If you answer when your numbers called
When you dedicate and give your all
When your back’s against the wall
U supposed to shine
Bobby Bradley has the dedication, drive and talent to excel. As his game matures and he learns how to make daily adjustments, his talent will shine through and help him build his career as a member of the Cleveland Indians organization.
Photo: Lindsay Carico/MiLB.com