Red Sox's Bradley Is Flying Through The Minors
Over the past 12 months, Jackie Bradley
has gotten accustomed to not playing with one team for too long. At this time last year, Bradley had just been selected by the Red Sox with the 40th overall pick in the draft and was capping a storied career at South Carolina with a second consecutive College World Series title.
Once his days with the Gamecocks were done, Bradley played just six games in rookie-ball before being promoted to low Class A Greenville. Four games in Greenville to finish off 2011 were all that were needed for Bradley to begin this season with the high Class A Salem Red Sox. Now he is on the move again, this time to Double-A Portland after tearing apart Carolina League pitching in the first half of 2012. Bradley led all Carolina League hitters with a .359 average through 67 games. His 26 doubles and .480 OBP were also tops in the league, earning Bradley a starting position in the California-Carolina League All-Star Game in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Talking with Bradley before the all-star game, he credited his early success to a simplified approach at the plate.
"I'm just staying within myself and using the whole field and really not trying to do too much," Bradley said. "Just seeing my pitch and not missing, that's the main thing. Usually if you get your pitch and you get too anxious or excited, that's when you miss. So I've just kind of been relaxed and patient at the plate, but also aggressive at times when I need be."
Bradley made a seemingly effortless jump to the pros, and playing for one of the elite college programs in the country certainly jump started his development.
"I think it was much easier of an adjustment coming from a bigger school and playing with such a high level of talent."
Despite the rigors of playing every single day, in some other ways pro ball has been even easier on Bradley than the college was.
"In college you have breaks but I feel like it's easier to focus now because you're doing something you love," Bradley said. "You don't have to worry about school work. You just get to go out here and play baseball every single day."
Coming into 2012, Baseball America rated Bradley as the No. 10 prospect in the Red Sox organization. He was also graded as their best defensive outfielder.
Seeing Bradley prepare before a game is a Little League or high school coach's dream: prior to the all-star game in Winston-Salem, Bradley was seen patrolling center field at game speed during batting practice, getting jumps on balls off the bat and chasing down deep flies at the warning track. When it was his time to hit, Bradley was one of a few, if not the only player to be seen running the bases while others were taking their swings. It is this preparation and focus that has produced results on the field in less than a full year in the minors.
"I try to do it all exceptionally well," Bradley said. "I'm not here to be a one-dimensional player. I like to go hard in whatever aspect of the game it may be."
The 22-year-old not only plays the game hard, but talks about it in a way that makes him seem mature well beyond his years, an assessment that Bradley doesn't shy away from.
"I feel like I'm mentally ahead of the game. I'm not really putting any stress on myself like you probably do when you're younger. I was actually listening to Johnny Bench speak today, and what us baseball players really need to do are those three famous words: get over it. You might struggle for a day or a week or a month, but every day you have to go at it with the same tenacity and the same mindset and try to do your best every single day. And that's what I've been able to do, mentally slow down the game for myself and just try to make it as easy as possible."