Bobby Bradley was the Indians' 3rd round pick in 2014. He would have gone higher, if not for concerns about him going to play college ball at LSU instead of signing. The Tribe went well over slot and landed him though. Fourteen months later, it seems to have been the right decision. He won the Triple Crown in the Arizona Summer League last year, and he has been one of the best hitters in the Midwest League this season.
Bradley's batting line for the year is .259/.344/.526, good for a wRC+ of 148, which ranks 3rd in the league among qualified players. His slugging percentage is tops in the league by 32 points right now. Even more impressive are the 25 home runs Bradley has hit so far this season. The second highest total in the pitching friendly MWL is 16, and the third highest total is 12, which means only one other player in the league has even half as many homers as Bradley.
What makes Bradley's hitting especially impressive is that he is only 19 years old. There are 50 teenagers listed at FanGraphs as having 300+ plate appearances above rookie-league ball this year. Bradley's 148 wRC+ ranks 2nd among that group, behing only K.J. Woods, a Marlins prospect, who is at 152. Bradley's 25 home runs also rank second among all teenagers this season, behind only Dodgers prospect Cody Bellinger, who has 26.
Being in the top two for home runs among all teenagers is impressive, but the fact that there are two teens with 25+ home runs this season makes the accomplishment look somewhat more common than it actually is. In the last decade, it's only happened eight times.
Most minor league home runs by a teenager (2006-2015):
- 1) Joey Gallo (2013): 40
- 2) Giancarlo Stanton (2008): 39
- t3) Giancarlo Stanton (2009): 28
- t3) Miguel Sano (2012): 28
- t5) Cody Johnson (2008): 26
- t5) Cody Bellinger (2015): 26
- t7) Travis Demeritte (2014): 25
- t7) Bobby Bradley (2015): 25
(Stanton hit 39 homers when he was 18!)
Three and a half weeks ago, Bradley had hit 14 home runs in 73 games. Since then, he's hit 11 home runs in 18 games, including one in each of Lake County's last five games. His batting line for those 18 games is .319/.402/.855, giving him a slugging percentage that looks like it must be a typo. He has 22 games left, and I'm hoping he can pass Bellinger for the teenage lead, while hitting at least 5 home runs in the process, which would make him only the third teenager in the last decade to hit 30+.
Bradley has a very high strikeout rate, and as he moves up the organizational ladder, he's going to need to make some progress with that. Still, the kind of power numbers he's posting are very rare for such a young prospect. He's the first Indians minor leaguer who's felt like he might someday hit 40 home runs for the Tribe since... Since I don't know who.
Bradley is having a tremendous season, and along with others such as Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier, Brady Aiken, Rob Kaminsky, and Justus Sheffield, he's a big part of a farm system that looks stronger than it has in years.