Few in recent memory have put on power displays like current Cleveland Indians top prospect Bobby Bradley has at such a young age.
That power potential and a solid 2015 season from the Tribe’s future first base option led to his selection as the Indians’ winner of the Lou Boudreau Award following the season, given to the top position player in the organization. He earned the honor after leading the Midwest League in homers while with the Lake County Captains and posted one of the top tallies across all minor league levels.
It is not the first hardware won by the 19-year-old, who has already earned an MVP award for his performance in the Arizona Fall League in 2014. There, he hit .361 with 13 doubles, four triples, and eight home runs, and drove in 50 runs over 39 games of action. He was named a post-season All-Star in the league at first base.
He earned three separate Midwest League Player of the Week honors during his season with the Captains in 2015. He was also named a Baseball America Low Class A All-Star, a Baseball America Minor League All-Star, and the MiLB.com Midwest League Player of the Month for August 2015.
With the promise that the slugging left-handed hitter has shown already in just a season and a half of pro ball, he may be glad he did not hold firm on his public statements prior to the 2014 draft that he would play for Louisiana State University that fall if he was not selected in the first two rounds. Over the course of his 84-game high school career at Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, Mississippi, he hit .442 with 23 homers and 91 RBI.
The Indians gambled on him in the third round with the 97th pick overall and paid out a $912,500 signing bonus to Bradley. He made his professional debut that fall with the rookie-league Indians in Arizona.
“I had a round set in my mind. Top-two round money,” Bradley shared in a story on MLB.com after signing with the Indians. “And even though I got drafted in the third round, [the Indians] gave me top-two round money, so that kind of influenced me to go that way.”
In his first full season, Bradley put on an incredible display at the plate, batting .264 with a .357 on-base percentage and .518 slugging mark. It was the power that caught the most eyes as the young slugger hit 27 homers and drove in 92 runs over the course of 108 games for Lake County.
He put up those numbers despite missing more than three weeks in mid-April and early May with an oblique strain.
He started slow to begin the season, hitting just .174 over his first nine games. Once he returned from his injury, the bat and run production came alive, aside from a colder July, when he hit .217 with three homers and ten RBI in 27 games. But he bounced back with an incredible August, hitting .337 with a .432 on-base percentage and .731 slugging percentage in 29 games. He blasted eleven of his homers and 38 of his RBI in that month, while drawing a season-high 18 walks. He also added hitting streaks of 13 and six games and was held hitless in just four games in the month.
The 13-gamer featured a .327 batting average, four doubles, seven homers, and 21 RBI.
There are areas of weakness in Bradley’s game, but he showed plenty to be excited about in his first full season of professional action. While his numbers extended over a 162-game schedule would have put him in line for a 40-homer, 130+ RBI season, he would have also blown well past the 200-strikeout mark. He averaged a strikeout in 31.8% of his plate appearances, a significant jump over his smaller 39-game sample in the Arizona League the previous year (20.5%). His walk rate did increase slightly from one season to the next.
While he has shown some impressive power numbers at this early stage of his career, his home run total dominated his overall extra base potential. He had just 15 doubles in those 108 games with the Captains and added four triples over the course of the year, making more than 82% of his hits for the season either homers or singles. Nearly 59% of his extra base hits were homers.
Still very young and with plenty of development left to do, Bradley’s eye and pitch selection at the plate will be a focus as he looks to refine his approach entering his third season with the club.
Bradley ended his year with the Lynchburg Hillcats, appearing in two games while going hitless in nine plate appearances in the regular season and going 1-for-8 during the Hillcats’ Northern Division championship series loss to the Wilmington Blue Rocks. His brief taste of the High-A level to end the season would lead most to believe he will continue his assault on minor league baseballs for the Hillcats to begin 2016. Those who get a chance to watch him could be in for an enjoyable show.
Photo: Lianna Holub/MiLB.com