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September 2, 2011 at 8:47 AM

The Book: Jackie Bradley, Jr.

OF Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Date: August 31, 2011
Team: Lowell Spinners
Age: 21

Line: 0 for 4, 2 flyouts, 1 groundouts, 1 strikeout looking

Swing/Approach: Hitting out of an open stance from the left side of the plate, Bradley, Jr. smoothly closes down to keep himself balanced as he starts his load. He slightly cocks his back elbow before beginning his swing, but unfolds quickly to drive his hands forward and create plus batspeed with a slight upward plane through the hitting zone. Because of his slightly long swing, it will be important that he learns to better keep his hands inside the ball against professional pitching. This weakness showed in his third and fourth plate appearances of the game. In both instances, Bradley, Jr. attacked fastballs on the inner third and jammed himself to create weak contact. Neither fastball was buried that far inside, but his over-extension prevented him from getting good wood on them. With progression using his hands better, these are offerings his swing looks designed to square up with solid backspin. Bradley, Jr. displayed patience and strong pitch recognition of secondary offerings in the game, but also appeared to consistently be zoning in on deliveries middle-to-in even with two strikes. He got caught looking at a 1-2 fastball on the outer third in his first plate appearance where he his body language showed surprise and he couldn’t pull the trigger to spoil the pitch off as a result.

Defense: Bradley, Jr. showed off a polished defensive package in this game, highlighted by his plus arm and natural instincts out in center field. Despite having about average speed, he sees the ball well of the bat and has an understanding of how to take appropriate routes and angles to the ball. Bradley, Jr. moved very smoothly when tracking flyballs hit out his way, while exhibiting solid reads to get quick initial steps in moving to the spot of the ball. He did drift and backpedal towards the tail end of his run on a couple of occasions, but made sure to get himself into good throwing position while snagging a fly in the right-center field gap with a runner on first base. Bradley, Jr.’s range was not challenged in this game and it still remains to be seen how much ground he covers on a well hit ball into either gap. His defensive polish and skills were on display in one particular play. Hustling into the right-center field gap in pursuit of hard line drive falling for a hit, he cut the ball off on the run and then spun very athletically to unleash a dart into second base to hold the runner from attempting to stretch it into a double. Bradley, Jr.’s throw was slightly off-line from the bag, but his ability to quickly release the ball and control his body was impressive.

Take: Just recently playing in games, this was the initial look at Bradley, Jr. and some rust did show at the plate. He was behind a few fastballs, but generates solid batspeed to the point of contact and has very quick hands. His swing has the look of one being capable of driving line drives into both gaps with authority as he comes up to speed with seeing pro pitching on a daily basis. Due to his strong bat control it is not hard to see him evolving into a plus hitter for average as he improves hitting inside the baseball with a little bit of a shorter stroke. On the lean side, there is some room to fill out, but I wouldn’t expect huge physical gains because of the limitations of his frame. With wiry muscle, Bradley, Jr. can develop some power and learn to lift the ball though. His power potential slots in as average-to-solid-average for a ceiling.

Bradley, Jr.’s defense is the most advanced part of his game. He has the potential to round into a plus-to-better defender at the major league level and should have no problem sticking in center field. Despite seeing only a handful of plays out his way during the game, he displayed the instincts of a natural defender. He appeared faster in the field than he timed at down the line because of the reads he gets off the bat. Bradley, Jr.’s arm will also have to be respected by runners. Most, if not all, of his projection is tied into how his offense develops. On the first scouting look, the offensive tools are there to profile as a major league regular. The key developmental point for this to come to fruition will be polishing his approach. As a professional hitter, Bradley, Jr. will need to work on not consistently looking for offerings on the inner third to avoid failing to cover the outside of the plate or rolling over the ball when given offerings to hit in that area. How well he is progressing with this aspect will be a good indication of how quickly his offensive game is developing during his early minor league career.