Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #4 Bobby Bradley
Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #4 Bobby Bradley
The top power hitter in the system, first baseman Bobby Bradley comes in at Number 4 on our 2016 Cleveland Indians Top Prospect countdown.
Who is Bobby Bradley?
Bobby “The Assassin” Bradley was the Tribe’s third-round pick (97th overall) in 2014, drafted out of Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, Mississippi. Bradley passed up a scholarship to college powerhouse LSU to sign with the Indians though it took the Tribe $912,500 to get the deal done ($372,900 over slot). The 19-year-old left-handed hitting first baseman stands 6’1” and weighs about 225 pounds. He spent almost all of 2015 with the Tribe’s Class-A Lake County Captains but did get a few games in at Advanced-A Lynchburg late in the season, including the Carolina League playoffs. Bradley was named the top position player in the Tribe’s system in 2015 as well, winning the Lou Boudreau Award.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Bradley is a big, strong first baseman who, despite being a teenager still, has shown enormous power thus far as a professional. After signing with the Tribe, he hit eight home runs in 2014 in just 39 games. He posted a monstrous .290 ISO (isolated power) while also hitting .361 with a 1.078 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He was named the Most Valuable Player of the Arizona Rookie League that year as well.
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In 2015, he picked up right where he left off, mashing a franchise best 27 home runs with Class-A Lake County. In fact, those 27 home runs he hit were not only tops in the Midwest League, but the closest person to him was Richard Urena of the Blue Jays who hit only 15. Bradley was the only player at the Class-A level to hit 20 home runs. He tied for tenth most home runs among all minor league players and had the second-most home runs by a teenager in 2015 (Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit 30 as a “19-year-old” though he is actually 10 months older than Bradley).
Bradley isn’t a one-trick pony either. He’s got good bat speed and hit .269 with a very good .361 OBP with the Captains. He has shown a knack for getting on base, posting an 11.2% walk rate thus far in the minors. Teams were so scared of Bradley’s bat that he was also intentionally walked six times in 2015, which was the fourth most among all minor leaguers last season.
For all the great with Bradley, there are some things he needs to work on. While the bat is a huge plus, he did strike out an alarming 31.6% of the time in 2015. His 150 strikeouts were third most in the Tribe system behind only Nellie Rodriguez and Clint Frazier, who both had way more at-bats. Bradley is still young enough that it’s not a major concern at this point but definitely something to keep an eye on as he progresses through the system.
Defensively Bradley gets the job done. He’s not flashy over at first base but doesn’t raise any real red flags either. He has okay speed for his size though that isn’t something that is going to be a big part of his game going forward either. He’s athletic enough that a move to left field isn’t completely out of the question (should the Tribe want to move him); however, first base is the spot he’s likely to remain, and he’s worked hard to improve his play there.
Overall Bradley is one of the most intriguing bats in the Tribe’s system. The upside is huge and it’s not crazy to say he could be a 30-plus home run guy at the big league level one day. He’s starting to catch the eyes of many publications, ranking in the top 100 among several including Baseball America, Fangraphs, and Minor League Ball. The high strikeout rate is one of the only things holding him back (in my eyes) from being in contention for the top spot in the Tribe’s system.
Where Does He Go From Here?
After flat out dominating the Midwest League in 2015, Bradley is set to open 2016 with the Advanced-A Lynchburg Hillcats. He’ll open as their starting first baseman and look to do to the Carolina League pitchers what guys like Bradley Zimmer, Luigi Rodriguez, Clint Frazier, and Nellie Rodriguez did in 2015. Bradley will also look to improve that strikeout rate and take the next step as a prospect. If he continues to hit, he could even see Double-A Akron by the end of the season, which while very optimistic, would be damn impressive for a kid that doesn’t turn 20 until May.
Next: Indians Top Prospects: #5 Rob Kaminsky
Whether Bradley makes it to Akron or stays the entire season in Lynchburg is mostly irrelevant though for him. He’s still a few years away from contributing at the big league level, with 2018 probably the most realistic timeline for him (though late 2017 is a glass half full target). The good news for Bradley is the path to the big leagues seems pretty clear for him. He’s the top hitting first baseman in the system and with guys like Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana free agents in the next two years, there should be an opening at first base, designated hitter, or both. Bradley may not be the “right-handed power bat” fans want, but he’s the left-handed power bat the team definitely needs. If that bat continues to improve and match the power, we could be looking at a top 25 prospect in all of baseball come this time next season…