OMAHA, NE - JUNE 29: Jackie Bradley, Jr. #19 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates with the Championshop trophy after defeating the UCLA Bruins in game 2 of the men's 2010 NCAA College Baseball World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 29, 2010 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Gamecocks defeated the Bruins 2-1 in eleven innings to win the National Championship. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Jackie Bradley, Jr. - CF - Red Sox - Named the Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series in 2010, Bradley looked like a first round pick. Problem was he wasn't eligible. In 2011, the NCAA altered their metal bats to reduce power and Bradley's approach suffered as a result. Speaking of suffering, Bradley also sustained a wrist injury that caused him to miss two months of the season. While these factors combined to drop him in the draft, he didn't go into a freefall with the Boston Red Sox popping him in the supplemental first round at pick number 40. When he's right, Bradley shows solid tools across the board with with power being his biggest question mark.
Signed in time to rack up 36 total at-bats between Short Season Lowell and Lo-A Greenville, Bradley posted a combined .250/.325/.361 slash line with one home run. Not anything worth writing home about considering his age, previous level of competition and the minuscule number of at-bats he accrued. Bradley has started out the 2012 season in fine fashion, punishing Hi-A Carolina League pitching to the tune of a .370/.489/.570 slash line, with three home runs and 11 stolen bases to boot. Bradley has posted impressive strikeout and walk rates at 13.1% and 17% respectively. His ISO of .200 is also impressive given his average to slightly-below power tool, but I would attribute that mostly to being too old/advanced for the level at 22 years old. Given the high quality of competition in the SEC and his impressive start to the 2012 season, the case can be made that Bradley deserves a look at Double-A as soon as possible because the Carolina League is not testing him. It is for this reason that one should take his current statistics with a grain of salt. While his numbers have been remarkable, they aren't completely unexpected from a prospect of Bradley's ilk, and we will learn far more about the player when we see his abilities tried at a higher level of competition.
One of the reasons the Red Sox were willing to gamble on Bradley's 2011 college season being a fluke was that there was one aspect of his game that didn't slump; his defense. Despite average speed, Bradley has few rivals in terms of his ability to man center field. Armed with superb instincts, Bradley covers a lot of ground and boasts a strong arm as well. Bradley's defense may well get him to the majors on its own, but he has a chance to be an all around quality player as well. Bradley has displayed plus bat speed this season, showing that he has found the swing he lost in his final college season. While he has the bat speed necessary to hit for power, Bradley's swing is rotational and he doesn't get the most out of his power, displaying gap power at the moment. Bradley is at his best when he uses the whole field, and sprays line drives as opposed to when he gets too power focused and pull conscious. Bradley's true plus at the plate is his knowledge of the strike zone, both in his ability to differentiate pitches and his ability to use that knowledge of the zone to drive pitches all over the field. Bradley may have only average speed, but his gamer instincts don't only help him in the field, but on the basepaths as well, helping him snag 11 of 15 bases on the season.
While he may not be the type of player that prospect hounds drool over, or his current stat line indicates, Jackie Bradley, Jr has a high floor thanks to his defense. I'd be very surprised if Bradley isn't a quality major leaguer given his defensive prowess and on base abilities. If Bradley is the crown jewel of a major league or fantasy system...well, that's not a good sign. He is however, a player capable of providing quality depth that won't hurt your team and will allow your stars to carry your team. Bradley might not bring five plus tools to the table, but he takes very little off of it and is well worth a stash on any fantasy team.