The best slugger in the system, first baseman Bobby Bradley comes in at number 5 on our Cleveland Indians 2017 top prospect countdown.
Who is Bobby Bradley?
Through no fault of his own, Bobby Bradley drops one spot from our 2016 list but remains a top five prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ system for the second year in a row. The Mississippi native was the Tribe’s third round pick in 2014 and signed for $912,500, foregoing a scholarship to play at Louisiana State University (LSU).
The 20-year-old is a big, left-handed hitting first baseman that stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 225 pounds.
He spent the 2016 season at Advanced-A Lynchburg where he helped lead the Hillcats to the playoffs en route to being named the Most Valuable Player of the Carolina League. This past winter he was also named the fourth best first base prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Bradley joined the Indians very raw out of high school but brought one big tool with him: Power. He led the Carolina League in home runs this year with 29, which was more impressive considering he was the 5th youngest player in the league on Opening Day.
He has now led his league in home runs in each of his three professional seasons, leading the Arizona Rookie League with eight in 2014 and then the Midwest League with 27 in 2015. His 56 home runs the last two years are also tops among all current Tribe prospects, nine ahead of second place Nellie Rodriguez and a whopping 25 ahead of third place Bradley Zimmer.
However, along with that mammoth power, Bradley is proving to be strikeout prone as well. He struck out in 29.7 percent on his plate appearances in 2016 and has struck out over 30 percent of the time the last two seasons.
On the flip side, however, he has shown a knack for drawing walks, with a 12.1 percent career walk rate and 13.1 percent in 2016. This has helped him post a career .361 on-base percentage, though that number was just .344 in 2016.
Related: No. 6, Nolan Jones
His hit tool is just “ok” in large part because of the type of hitter he is. He will wait on his pitch to drive or take his walk. This is why he will strike out a lot and why he has a career .265 average, which will good is far from great.
Bradley may draw some Kyle Schwarber comparisons, which makes some sense given both have big-time left-handed power, though I’m not convinced Bradley will ever be quite as good a hitter as Schwarber.
Defensively, Bradley has been surprisingly solid at first base since joining the Indians. He has absolutely no speed to speak of but he moves well enough at first to field the position adequately.
Originally thought to be a DH-only type, he definitely looks like he could be an everyday first baseman. He caught some in high school as well (another reason for the Schwarber comps I’m sure), but he has only an average arm and lacks the athleticism to play the position (hence why he hasn’t as a pro).
Where does he go from here?
Bradley has been the most impressive power hitting prospect the Cleveland Indians have had in a while, even outdoing Clint Frazier while he was in the system. Even though he’s still only 20 years old, Bradley has proven himself in the lower levels and will begin the 2017 season at Double-A Akron where he’ll open as the RubberDucks starting first baseman and likely cleanup hitter.
Bradley has one of the most exciting tools in the Tribe’s system with his mammoth power, that rates as one of the best power tools in all of minor league baseball. His falling one spot this year may seem odd given that and his big season, but there’s a reason for it. He is limited to first base, which in turn limits his value some. He also needs to continue to work on cutting the strikeouts, which could become a big problem going forward.
However, if he can continue to get on base and hit home runs, though, the strikeouts may not be a true issue. He’s become a true “three-outcome” player and perhaps he could be an Adam Dunn-type going forward.
While that may not appeal to all, there’s a ton of value in 30-plus home runs and a high on-base percentage. Bradley shouldn’t be as big a liability in the field either so that’s a plus.
Bradley won’t see the big leagues in 2017, what with Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion holding down first base and designated hitter; however, 2018 may not be completely out of the question for him (especially if Santana walks in free agency).
The Indians would likely prefer to keep him in Triple-A in 2018 with 2019 a more realistic target given his age, but Bradley continues to prove he’s worthy of callups so don’t rule anything out with this kid. He has a low floor but the sky is the limit for him as well.