November 7, 2012 at 8:00 AM
#3 Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF
2012 Teams: Salem Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs
2012 Stats: .315/.430/.482, 42 2B, 9 HR, 24 SB
Pre-2012: Jackie Bradley, Jr. was carving out a memorable college career for himself at the University of South Carolina before he suffered a torn wrist ligament at the beginning of his junior year. As a freshman, he hit .349/.431/.537. As a sophomore, he improved across the board hitting .368/.473/.587, and was on his way to being a first-round draft pick in the 2011 draft. His untimely injury reflected his work ethic: he was trying to make a diving catch. As a result, he put up an uncharacteristic line of .259/.361/.468, and it caused his draft stock to fall. Still, Bradley was able to help the Gamecocks to back-to-back national championships.
The Red Sox seized their opportunity and selected the center fielder in the supplemental first round with the 40th overall pick, signing him to a $1.1 million bonus in August. Bradley appeared in only ten games between the Lowell Spinners and Greenville Drive at the end of the 2011 season. At the beginning of the 2012 season, the debate was whether or not to ease him into his professional career with the Greenville Drive or challenge him with advanced pitching with High-A Salem.
2012 Season in Review: The Red Sox chose the latter, and by the time Bradley was promoted after the All-Star break, Bradley, Jr. led the Carolina League in batting average (.359), on-base percentage (.480), and OPS (1.006). He had accumulated 26 doubles, 16 stolen bases, 52 walks, and only 40 strikeouts in 234 at-bats. SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Chris Mellen commented on Bradley's ability to work counts and identify pitches. Bradley even initially dominated Eastern-League pitching. He posted a .350/.424/.463 line through his first 20 games. However, after a while, he began to wear down, as might be expected in any player's first full season. Through 61 games and 229 at-bats with Portland, Bradley posted a modest line of .271/.373/.437. Modest for someone with his reputation, but impressive for a 22-year-old in his first season in professional baseball.
2013 Outlook: Bradley put himself on the map not only in the Red Sox system, but on a national level, as he should be a consensus top 50 prospect on most lists entering 2013. Bradley is talented both offensively and defensively, and he demonstrated resilience when recovering from his injury. There is still room for improvement, though; he still needs to work on hitting the other way, and his numbers could use some improvement against right-handed pitchers. Although not projected to hit for much power, Bradley, Jr. still has room to fill out this offseason. The organization seems likely to give him at least a short return trip to Portland to start 2013, but a mid-season promotion to Pawtucket is likely, and Bradley's major league debut could very likely come at some point during the year.
Photo Credit: Jackie Bradley, Jr. by John Corneau/Lowell Spinners