What more can you ask from 2014 third round pick Bobby Bradley?
The powerful slugger began 2016 as one of the youngest players at the High-A level and proceeded to win the Carolina League MVP as a member of the Lynchburg Hillcats as a 19-year old. He set career highs in home runs (29) and RBI (102) while also leading the league in both categories, the third time he’s done that in as many years since he’s been drafted.
One of Bradley’s many highlights in 2016 came on May 2nd against Potomac, when he blasted a grand slam, going 2-3 with a walk and five runs batted in on the day:
The most important thing to pay attention to in regards to Bradley actually becoming a viable future first base option is his strikeout rate.
The bad news is Bradley still struck out a ton in 2016, setting a career high with 170 whiffs in 131 games. The good news? His strikeout rate actually went down this past year from 31.8% in 2015 to 29.7%. Also, his walk rate went up for the third straight year, rising to a career best 13.1%. He was also intentionally walked a career high eight times.
Another important factor to keep track of is Bradley’s defense. The 6’1, 225 pound slugger was not known for his glove when he was drafted out of high school, but he definitely seems to have put the time in, dropping his errors at first base from 17 to 13 in 2016, all this despite having an increase in total chances by over 100. His fielding percentage this past season was a respectable .988, although he was still last in fielding out of the Indians top three first base prospects (Jesus Aguilar and Nellie Rodriguez being the others).
While Bradley’s eye is improving, his strikeout rate is gradually dropping and the defense is coming along, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the powerful slugger.
Bradley’s batting average took a nosedive in 2016.
By comparison, he won the Triple Crown at the AZL in 2014, batting .361. He skipped a level the next season and saw an expected drop in average, batting .269 for Single-A Lake County. In 2016 for Lynchburg, his average tumbled all the way down to .235 overall. Granted, I feel his ridiculously low BABIP of .293 this past year played a major part, but that is definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Bradley will absolutely be moving up to Double-A Akron in 2017, which is commonly known as the most difficult jump in skill level in the minors. If he can hit there, he can hit anywhere. This will be one of his last major hurdles before becoming a call-up candidate.
While his batting average and the strikeouts are still mildly distressing, Bradley has an incredible knack for producing runs and getting on base. As long as he can keep doing that, he should be just fine.