We've already begun our encompassing look at the outfield position with the release of our consensus top 75 outfielders for the 2014 season. We will not be releasing a top prospect list by position this year, so there is no list of top 20 outfield prospects coming, for the simple reason that ranking them for position isn't likely to help a lot of fantasy owners. Instead, as a part of each position, the prospect staff will look at a few prospects at each position who could potentially have an impact during the 2014 season. Next up on the list is Jackie Bradley of the Boston Red Sox.
Weight: 195 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: Yes
Options Remaining: 2
DOB: 4/19/1990 (Age 23 season)
After not being drafted out of high school, Jackie Bradley went to the University of South Carolina, and on the strength of two excellent seasons was viewed as a high first round pick at the start of his 2011 season. However, poor performance in comparison to his previous years and an injury that ended his season early led him to fall in the draft, to the Red Sox at #40 overall that year. He signed at the August 15th deadline, receiving a bonus of $1.1 million. He appeared in just 10 games that year, but was sent directly to High-A to start the 2012 campaign.
After hitting .359/.480/.526 with 16 stolen bases in 67 games, the Red Sox promoted him to AA, where he finished up with a total of 9 home runs, 24 stolen bases, and a .315/.430/.482 line. The number that really jumps off the page for Bradley was the walk rate, which matched up with the strikeout rate almost exactly (15.1% walk vs. 15.5% strikeout). He came into the 2013 season expected to move up to AAA, but a very strong performance in Spring Training and an early spring injury to David Ortiz led him to make the Opening Day roster. He did end up at AAA when Ortiz returned, and shuttled back and forth between the two levels throughout the season.
The Scouting Report
Bradley ranks very highly on prospect lists, but his value to the Red Sox is much higher than it is to fantasy owners. He is considered a potential plus defender in center field, with an above average arm. While he has decent speed, it is not expected to translate into high stolen base totals. The key to his fantasy value will lie with his batting average and on-base percentage, as Bradley has a very good approach at the plate and could fit in very nicely at the top of a batting order. He's not expected to provide high power totals, more likely to approach double-digit home runs than surpass it.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
With Jacoby Ellsbury moving onto the other side of the rivalry, Bradley is poised to take over at the everyday center fielder in Boston. There is some tiny potential for Grady Sizemore to take playing time from Bradley if he struggles, but this is a very unlikely scenario.
When Could He Arrive?
Barring an injury or an extremely poor performance, Bradley should be in center field on Opening Day.
What Can He Do When He Gets There?
I can see Bradley providing a .280-.290 batting average with 5-7 home runs, 5-7 stolen bases, and potentially a lot of runs in the high-powered Red Sox offense if he were to hit at the top of the order. He is projected to be at the bottom of the starting lineup according to MLB Depth Charts right now, which seems most likely to depress that run potential at least a little bit. He will have additional value in OBP leagues, as he should have a healthy separation (.100 or more) between his batting average and on-base percentage.
Bradley is the perfect example of a prospect that will receive more helium on top prospect lists than he will deserve for his fantasy potential. His defense plays a lot into his real-life value, and as a result he may be drafted too highly in some leagues. Be mindful of what he can provide when you are looking at him, as it isn't nearly as strong as those prospect rankings will indicate. He's going to be at the back end of our top 75 consensus outfielders, in large part due to the possibility of a full season's worth of at bats, and is likely an OF4 or OF5 at best in most mixed leagues.
Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball