Future Face of Fenway: Jackie Bradley, Jr.
While Red Sox fans are anxiously anticipating the return of two All-Star outfielders, they’re forgetting to take notice of the outfield stars in the Red Sox system
that may be the ultimate answer to any questions the Sox have about the future of their outfield. The Portland Sea Dogs (AA-Affiliate) are lucky enough to currently have Jackie Bradley, Jr. on their roster—but he most likely won’t be there for long.
Bradley, although less than a year in the minor leagues, has already made a vast impression throughout professional baseball. Last season, after being selected in the 2011 Supplemental 1st Round (compensation pick for Adrian Beltre), Bradley saw action in 6-games for the Lowell Spinners (Short Season-A) and 4-games for the Greenville Red Sox (Low-A). This was just the beginning of stardom for the Richmond, VA native.
In the brief ten games he played in last season, he hit .250 in 36 at-bats with a home run and three RBI to his name. The stats don’t seem impressive but considering he had just completed a national championship season with South Carolina (with the regular season starting in February) we need to cut the kid some slack. And when you see his numbers for this season, you’ll have more reason to forgive him.
Entering the 2012 campaign, Bradley was once again “bumped” up through the Red Sox system, being assigned to the Salem (VA) Red Sox (High-A). In just 17 games playing for the team in his home state, Bradley was hitting an astounding .368 which also helped him have a .436 On-Base Percentage in those few games. He was rewarded for his success with a Carolina League All-Star nod and was also called up to Portland on June 21.
Luckily for Bradley the All-Star game was played two days before his call-up and not-so-lucky for his fellow Carolina League All-Stars as he went 0-for-5 in the showcase of the league’s best.
The change in scenery and competition in Portland seemed not to phase the 22-year old outfielder as in his first 17-games in Portland he hit safely in 15 of them and in one of the games he didn’t register a hit, he reached base safely via a walk.
What makes Bradley most impressive and what he is known for throughout the minors is not just his batting average but his incredible On-Base Percentage. Bradley leads all full-season minor league baseball players with a .471 OBP. That’s the best across 10 full-season leagues in the minors.
On Wednesday, Bradley and the Sea Dogs played in New Hampshire against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Bradley couldn’t be stopped, he went 4-for-6 with 3 singles and a double. What’s special about Bradley, though, is that he doesn’t always hit line drive singles. He just knows how to get balls through certain holes and get on base. After all, a 400-foot line drive single is just as effective as an infield-bloop single.
After this incredible showing on Wednesday night, Bradley still stayed true to his humble values. His confidence was high, as it should be, but he wasn’t letting it get the best of him, “I’m always confident, you can’t get overconfident though, you got to stay level-headed,” said the former College World Series Most Outstanding Player (at U of South Carolina), ”Everyday’s a different day so you might feel good tonight. Tomorrow you got to go in there with the same feeling; confident no matter what the outcome is. You just got to be ready to play.”
Luckily for Bradley, the two aforementioned All-Star outfielders, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, were assigned to the Portland Sea Dogs as a part of their rehab plan. Bradley, a player being talked about as the next best Red Sox outfielder, had the opportunity to play and collaborate with two Major League stars while they were rehabbing. Although it can be a very exciting and overwhelming scenario, Bradley did his best to mind his own business but observe what they do and how they carry themselves as professionals of the game, ““It’s a great experience to be able to see them play and play beside them. And just learning from watching them; the way they go about their business, their mannerisms,” said Bradley who won back-to-back College World Series’ while at USC (2010 & 2011), “That’s just the small things you can pick up on guys like that.”
SoxProspects.com has Bradley listed as the No.3 rated prospect in all of the Sox system and the highest rated outfielder.
For a player that has a very bright future ahead of them, injuries can be the one thing that might hold him back. Bradley has been lucky so far in his brief pro career in terms of having zero injuries, and that’s all Bradley cares about come seasons end. He is more worried about maintaining his health versus shooting up in the system as fast as he can, “I just want to be healthy the whole season. I just want to stay healthy for one whole season, everything else will take care of itself.”
Kuykendall can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com