Bobby Bradley was a third-round pick of the Cleveland Indians back in 2014 out of Harrison Central High School. He’s a stout, left-handed hitting first baseman who stands 6’1″ and weighs 225 (or at least he did as of a few months ago). The Mississippi native spent 2017 at Double-A Akron before finishing the year in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As with Shane Bieber and his control, Bobby Bradley has one skill that jumps out at even the most casual of fans: his power. He has hit at least 23 home runs in each of his three full minor league seasons. His isolated power (ISO) has topped .200 every single season he’s been in the Indians’ organization. He’s the prototypical power-hitting first baseman, the guy you dream of plugging into the cleanup spot.
However, with that power has come some issues, most notably a lot of strikeouts. In 411 minor league games, Bradley has struck out 478 times, including 150 and 170 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. He did improve in 2017, however, striking out just 122 times and lowering his strikeout rate from near 30-percent in 2016 to a much more manageable 23-percent.
Bradley does counter the high strikeout rate with a very good walk rate though, like with his strikeout rate, the walks dropped in 2017 as well. He still has maintained a walk rate in the double digits (10-percent or more) the last three years which has helped him post respectable on-base percentages despite low batting averages.
Defensively Bradley is a first baseman only. He lacks the speed to play the outfield and he won’t do much on the bases (he’s had exactly three stolen bases in each of his four seasons). There is a reasonable chance Bradley ends up a designated hitter down the line as well though reports this winter are that he’s dropped 30 pounds and in great shape, which should help him be more nimble at first and perhaps help him improve. He’s definitely not the worst defender to man the position either so the Tribe will give him every shot to stick in the field.
Where does he go from here?
Bobby Bradley has been ranked top three in the Tribe farm system by most of the big publications this winter and has even gotten some top 100 love (most notably by Fangraphs and Keith Law). He’s always been a fringe top 100 prospect, cracking lists by MLB and Baseball America; however, 2017 was a bit of a down year for him. He had a career-worst ISO, OPS, wRC+, OBP, and the lowest home run total in the last three years.
In Bradley’s defense, he was just 21 years old at Double-A and Akron’s Canal Park has never been known as a hitter’s paradise. His 23 home runs, .214 ISO, .796 OPS, and 116 wRC+ are all still very good numbers, just not the eye-popping numbers we have been used to seeing from Bradley. The lowered strikeout rate was huge as well even if it didn’t result in better offensive numbers.
There are many that feel Bradley should start the year in Triple-A Columbus but I think a return trip to Akron is in order, at least to start the year. The Clippers roster is going to be pretty loaded and 1B/DH won’t be the easiest place to snag at-bats early in the year. Even if he does start at Akron, I fully expect him to see Columbus at some point. There’s even an outside chance he could see Cleveland in September but with the presence of Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion that seems unlikely.
Bobby Bradley isn’t my favorite prospect in the system as he lacks versatility and the bat outside of the power worries me a bit. He looks more like a Russell Branyan type at this point than an Encarnacion type (at least to me). I thought of him a bit lower than third but one can’t ignore the big time power. He does have the potential to be a 30-plus home run guy year in and year out at the big league level and it could come as early as 2019 if things click (and a spot is available).