From young minor league prospects to rookie big-league talent, Prospect Press will be providing an inside look at baseball's best talent for years to come. Today's Prospect Press focuses on Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Prospect Press: Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox
Monday October 1st, 2012
Drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Bradley Jr. offered baseball fans a glimpse into the bright future ahead. The 22-year-old outfielder enjoyed a terrific first season in professional baseball, posting a triple-slash line of .315/.430/.482 with 24 stolen bases while splitting time between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. During his time in high-A, he led a majority of offensive categories, declaring it was time for a promotion. In 61 games at the Double-A level, Bradley posted a .373 on-base percentage with 6 home runs and 8 stolen bases.
I personally had the chance to view Bradley Jr. while he was playing for the high-A Salem Red Sox. In the half a dozen games I saw Bradley in, he was very impressive.
Starting with his defense, Bradley plays a terrific center field. Although he doesn't have plus speed, he does a good job reading the ball off the bat, helping him take the quickest routes to the ball. On a few balls that appeared to be hit deep over his head or in the gap, he showed good range and instincts to make the play with his good glove. Bradley's arm was also very strong in CF, showing the ability to make difficult throws from the outfield look effortlessly.
At the plate, the left-handed outfielder uses an open stance, but is still able to cover the strike zone with his bat, thanks to his closing approach on the ball, and keeping his quick hands above the ball. He's a pure contact hitter who doesn't strike out a lot. He has excellent pitch recognition along with plate discipline, and will either take his walks, or force the pitcher to make a mistake. Bradley is at his best when he uses his bat control to take outside pitches to left field. Of the many hits I saw him have in 2012, his best was an outside curveball that he waited on and then stroked it into the left-center gap. His physique doesn't project him as a prototypical power hitter, but he could develop double digit home run power with physical growth.
On the base paths, Jackie shows strong instincts and doesn't give up outs with careless mistakes. His speed is average, but thanks to good reads and quick acceleration, he won't have trouble stealing bases at the major league level.
Looking to the future, Jackie Bradley Jr. projects as a regular outfielder in center or right field. I mention right field because of Boston's current commitment to regular center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury, 29, is arbitration eligible after the 2012 season and scheduled to be a free agent after the 2013 season. Depending on what moves the Red Sox make during the off-season, Bradley could find himself in Fenway Park at some point during the 2013 season, either in center or right field. Although playing in the outfield in Boston can be an adventure for a defender, Bradley will likely have zero issues transitioning to the field.
All signs are positive for Bradley Jr. as an everyday regular for Boston in the near future. It's likely he will start the season at the Double-A level in 2013, but a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket within the first month or two of the season isn't out of the question.
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