The Cleveland Indians’ minor league system has started to take some positive steps forward in recent years. This upswing is largely in part to excellent drafting and development of talented young prospects who could easily climb the ladder quickly and become regulars at the major league level.
Using the same approach in last June’s draft, the Indians did an incredible job selecting and signing promising young prospects with one of them being first baseman Bobby Bradley. Picked in the 3rd round (97th overall) out of Harrison Central High School in Mississippi, an exciting moment that crept up on Bradley as he was more focused on his college commitment to LSU before draft day.
“Being drafted by the Cleveland Indians was a great overall experience,” said Bradley. “It was great knowing I was able to continue to do what I love which is play baseball every day.”
“At the time I was more focused on going to college. I wasn’t really focused on the draft until it was happening,” he added. “Then it happened and I was drafted by the Indians and I decided to go the professional route.”
Indians fans are happy Bradley chose to sign as he was definitely ready to take on a professional season at just 18-years old. Assigned to the Indians AZL affiliate last summer, Bradley showed baseball fans exactly why he was such a coveted prospect.
Showing the kind of production you want to see from a first baseman in 2014, Bradley batted .361 with 13 doubles, four triples, and eight home runs. The Mississippi native also drove in 50 runs, while scoring another 39.
Another promising sign was Bradley’s .426 OBP and .652 slugging percentage that he maintained on his way to being named an all-star, league MVP, and winning an AZL Triple Crown.
Focused on being more than just an excellent bat, Bradley spent a lot of his off-season sharpening his defensive drills at first base. Bradley understands the importance of excellent two way play when trying to climb the minor league ladder.
Bradley’s defensive ability was already respectable at the rookie-ball level as he committed just six errors in 301 chances last season, but he feels between the two sides of the game that is where he needed the most improvement and he hopes it shows throughout the 2015 season.
“My game at first base has gotten a lot better. It was an area I worked hard at this past off-season as well as spring training,” stated Bradley. “Defense is an important part of the game and I have put in the work to be better at every aspect of it. I really focused on my footwork throughout the off-season and spring training. I’m really happy with the results so far.”
Currently playing low-A baseball with the Lake County Captains of the Midwest League, Bradley has elevated his game quickly since his draft day. Just a month shy of turning 19-years old, Bradley has already been recognized as the Indians 9th best prospect by Baseball America.
Picking up three hits in his first 11 Midwest League at-bats, Bradley has continued to show the production he did in rookie-ball already hitting a home run and driving in two runs in his first full season weekend.
“I’m planning on doing the same things mechanically from last year to this year,” explained Bradley. “I’m hoping to find the same approach I had in the AZL. I’m hoping to find the same timing at the plate and hopefully it will transition to playing in the Midwest League.”
While his numbers implies that Bradley focuses a lot on his power he actually doesn’t at this stage of his minor league development. The young first baseman sees himself as more of a gap hitter that has the potential to turn into a big power guy later in his minor league career.
“I feel I have pretty good power right now. But I’m sticking more to hitting line drives up the middle of the field,” explained Bradley. “I feel my power will come later in my development. Right now I’m more focused on being a gap hitter.”
Be sure to follow Bobby Bradley as he continues to be an excellent first base option in the Cleveland Indians system for years to come.