09 Dec

comes a time

With Carlos Santana officially out of the picture, the first base job in Cleveland for 2021 is open. Former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley figures to get a shot in spring training but will face stiff competition. Bradley, Jake Bauers and Josh Naylor are all young, left-handed power hitters. Naylor, 23, acquired from San Diego last summer in the Mike Clevinger trade, is the only one of the three to play for the big league team in 2020. (He made a splash in the postseason, going 5-for-7 with a homer.) Bradley, 24, and Bauers, 25, spent the entire season in the Indians’ alternate camp. What that says about their status, who knows? Bradley, the Indians’ No. 13 prospect, is a decorated minor league player who has demonstrated big power with 147 home runs since 2014. He is a .254 hitter who strikes out a lot. And that can be a problem. In a brief MLB stint in 2019, he fanned 20 times in 45 at-bats while hitting one homer. Bradley is about to enter his eighth pro season. If he’s going to stick in the big leagues, 2021 has got to be the year, if not in Cleveland then somewhere else.

16 Sep

watch for it

The long wait for the call to the big leagues came on Tuesday. Now Demarcus Evans waits, anxiously no doubt, for the call to the Texas bullpen that will signal his MLB debut. There’s a fair chance it’ll come tonight when the Rangers play the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Former Petal High star Evans, a 25th-round pick by the Rangers in 2015, is a 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander with tantalizing stuff: an exploding fastball and sharp-breaking curve. “He’s going to come at you with a pretty good fastball—probably one of the best fastballs I’ve seen,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said in a Sports Illustrated story. Evans reportedly has been throwing well in the alternate camp. He had an exceptional 2019 season, split between high-A and Double-A. In 60 innings, he struck out 100 batters (with 39 walks) and posted a 0.90 ERA. Baseball America named Evans the closer on its all-classification minor league All-Star team. Having switched from starter to reliever during the 2017 season, he has averaged almost 14 strikeouts per nine innings over his pro career. … Considering the offensive struggles Cleveland has been experiencing, it’s a wonder the Indians haven’t given Bobby Bradley a call. The former Harrison Central High standout, who is in their alternate camp in Eastlake, Ohio, could add some thunder to a club that ranks near the bottom of the majors in runs and home runs. The lefty-hitting first baseman/DH has 147 homers over six minor league campaigns and has hit 27 or more in a season four times. He hit 33 at Triple-A Columbus last year, plus another during his brief big league stint. Scouting reports say the 24-year-old Bradley has power to all fields. Sports Illustrated noted earlier this year that the Indians “need to know if they have an MLB-ready first baseman waiting in the wings” to replace Carlos Santana next year. What better time to get a clue. The Indians have lost seven in a row and entered play today in third place, 6 games out, in the American League Central, clinging to the second wild card.

30 Aug

coming soon

Act II of his big league career should be starting soon for Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star who made his MLB debut with Cleveland back in June. With rosters expanding on Sunday, the Indians’ No. 7 prospect likely will be recalled then or shortly thereafter. The lefty-hitting first baseman, who has been scuffling of late at Triple-A Columbus, made some noise on Thursday when he went 4-for-5 with two home runs, bringing his season total to 33, 34 if you count the one he hit for the Indians during his 15-game call-up. Recently named an International League All-Star, Bradley is batting .263 with 72 RBIs, 62 runs, 44 walks and 151 strikeouts in 103 games. With 148 homers in six pro seasons, he could help supply some power for the Indians, who are chasing a playoff berth and recently lost Jose Ramirez for several weeks due to injury.

24 Jun

welcome to the show

It didn’t take long for Bobby Bradley to endear himself to Cleveland fans. In the top of the first inning of his big league debut on Sunday, the first baseman from Gulfport made a nice catch going back on a foul pop. In the second inning, on the second pitch he saw, Bradley stroked a deep fly ball to left field that hit near the corner and bounced into the Progressive Field stands for a run-scoring ground-rule double. On SiriusXM radio, Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton screeched with excitement. Bradley later scored on a throwing error as the Indians bolted ahead en route to an 8-3 win over Detroit. Fans gave Bradley an ovation when he was lifted for a pinch runner after drawing a walk in the eighth inning to cap his 1-for-3 debut. “Just unreal,” Bradley told mlb.com. “I think it’s gonna kick in for me at some point today that today actually happened. I mean, it’s a day I’ll never forget.” Bradley, 23, has been a highly rated prospect in the Indians’ system since he was drafted in the third round out of Harrison Central High in 2014. He won three minor league home run titles as he rose through the system and was leading the International League at the time of his call-up. Family and friends were in the stadium for his debut. He is the 16th Mississippi high school product to play in The Show in 2019. P.S. Bradley wasn’t the only Mississippian to produce a highlight or two on Sunday. Richton High alum JaCoby Jones led off the Tigers-Indians game with his ninth homer of the year and then added another hit. Wheeler High product Brandon Woodruff notched his ninth win of the year and struck out a career-high 12 as Milwaukee beat Cincinnati. Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton went 2-for-3 with a run and two steals in Kansas City’s victory. Brookhaven Academy alum Corey Dickerson and Mississippi State product Adam Frazier had pinch hits for Pittsburgh and Tupelo High alum Chris Stratton tossed a scoreless inning in the Pirates’ amazing 11-10, 11-inning win against San Diego. Former Copiah Academy standout Hunter Renfroe went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Padres. Itawamba AHS alum Brian Dozier had a pinch hit in a losing cause for Washington, and East Central Community College product Tim Anderson went 1-for-4 with an RBI in a loss for the Chicago White Sox.

21 Jun

coming attraction

Someday, perhaps very soon, Bobby Bradley and Brent Rooker will be slugging it out as American League Central rivals. On Thursday, they gave us a preview. Gulfport’s Bradley and Mississippi State product Rooker, batting fourth as the DH for Columbus and Rochester, respectively, in the Triple-A International League, combined for three home runs in Thursday’s game. Rooker, a Minnesota Twins prospect, hit his 10th of the year, and Bradley, a Cleveland Indians prospect, hit Nos. 23 and 24, which leads the IL. Both have been on hot streaks. Rooker has homered in three straight games and is batting .289 in 43 contests; he missed some time with a wrist injury. Bradley has gone deep twice in three of his last six games and has lifted his average to .295. Both strike out a lot, but in today’s game that seems to matter less and less. The Twins and Indians may be battling for the AL Central title down the stretch – with Rooker and Bradley in the middle of the fray.

29 May

party time

Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High star, turns 23 today. He got a head start on the celebration Tuesday night, hitting a pair of home runs – including a grand slam — for Triple-A Columbus in the Cleveland system. With six homers in his last seven games, Bradley has 14 on the year, second in the International League. He is batting .285 with 37 RBIs. The lefty-hitting first baseman, the Indians’ No. 6 prospect (per MLB Pipeline), would seem to be banging on the door for a call-up. The Indians currently have veteran Carlos Santana and second-year big leaguer Jake Bauers manning first base. (Bauers is hitting .210 with five homers.) Bradley still strikes out a lot but that’s the tradeoff for big power, and he has 128 bombs in his six pro seasons. He won home run crowns at the rookie level and two levels of A-ball. The Indians, 27-27 and 10 games out in the American League Central, could probably use a jolt. P.S. The Los Angeles Angels put Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart on the injured list again, this time with shoulder inflammation. He is batting .124 and has played sparingly. … Ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland has been out of the Boston lineup of late with a sore knee, and East Central Community College product Tim Anderson – the AL’s leading hitter at .337 — has been out with a wrist injury for the Chicago White Sox. Both are listed day-to-day.

30 Oct

next man up?

Former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley recently made Cleveland’s minor league organization all-star team and will almost certainly make the Indians’ 40-man protected roster this off-season. When the fifth-year pro will make his big league debut is less certain. Bradley, a left-handed hitting first baseman with impressive power, reached Triple-A Columbus this past season at age 22. The Indians’ No. 7 prospect hit 27 homers and drove in 83 runs between Double-A and Triple-A. He batted just .224, however, and reportedly still needs to polish up his defense. “He’s just a kid, so he’s got plenty of time,” Indians farm director James Harris recently told milb.com. “We’re confident he’ll become an all-around better player.” The Indians have veteran Yonder Alonso at first base and under contract for 2019. Bradley figures to get significant playing time in spring training and then return to Triple-A, where he’ll wait in the wings. Four Mississippians debuted in the big leagues last season: Braxton Lee, Dakota Hudson, Cody Carroll and Spencer Turnbull. Bradley could be first up in 2019. P.S. Demarcus Evans, the former Petal High star, is on the East roster for Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, a showcase event for the showcase league. Evans is a power-armed pitching prospect in the Texas Rangers’ system. Also on the East squad are Atlanta prospects Cristian Pache, an outfielder, and Kyle Muller, a pitcher, and Milwaukee prospect Keston Hiura, an infielder. Pache and Muller played for the Mississippi Braves in 2018, and Hiura was with Biloxi. MLB Network will televise the Fall Stars Game at 7 p.m. … Former M-Braves star Ronald Acuna is on the team of big leaguers headed overseas next week for the MLB Japan All-Star Series. The first game is Nov. 8 in Tokyo. MLB Network will carry all the games live.

24 Apr

yes, it’s early

It’s much too early in the season to be alarmed, but Bobby Bradley – the highly regarded Cleveland prospect from Gulfport – is off to a noticeably rough start in his second Double-A campaign. The 21-year-old first baseman is batting .103 with two home runs and 20 strikeouts in 58 at-bats for Akron. Bradley reported for spring training – he went to big league camp, where he batted .312 – having dropped about 25 pounds from last year. He lists at 6 feet 1, 225. “I am focused on what I started to focus on at the end of last year, which is staying with a consistent approach, becoming a better defender and becoming a better base runner,” he told the Akron Beacon Journal earlier this month. It’s the power in his bat that has made Bradley the No. 3 prospect in the Indians’ system, according to the ratings of MLB Pipeline, Baseball America and Perfect Game. He hit 23 homers (with a .251 average) for Akron last year and has 89 bombs (with a .255 average) in five pro seasons since Cleveland picked him in the third round out of Harrison Central High in 2014. Surely he’ll start to hit as the weather improves in the Eastern League.

22 Sep

oh, snap

A streak has been snapped in Bobby Bradley’s career. For the first time in four seasons in pro ball, the Gulfport native did not make Baseball America’s list of the Top 20 prospects in his league. Bradley, at age 21, batted .251 with 23 homers and 89 RBIs for Akron in the Double-A Eastern League. Not a bad year at all, but apparently there are questions, at least in the minds of some EL managers, about his plate discipline. As BA’s Josh Norris wrote in an online chat on Thursday: “There was a little bit of love for him, but nothing overwhelming. The power is there, but managers saw him as more of a mistake-type hitter than someone who belonged in the Top 20 in the league. There are holes in his swing, and he has work to do defensively as well.” Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman who was starring at Harrison Central a little more than three years ago, might use this “snub” as motivation as he heads into the Arizona Fall League, which starts next month. He’ll play for Glendale. Bradley is a career .261 hitter (.352 on-base percentage) with 87 homers. It’s worth noting, of course, that he is still rated No. 5 by BA on Cleveland’s prospect list and is No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s list. He made the top 10 in the Arizona League, Midwest League and Carolina League on his way up the ladder, and he was the high-A Carolina League MVP in 2016. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, did make the EL Top 20, checking in at No. 9. Alford, who had a cup of coffee with Toronto in May, hit .302 with five homers, 24 RBIs and 18 steals in 245 at-bats for New Hampshire. The outfielder spent time on the disabled list with a wrist injury suffered shortly after he made his big league debut. … Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson, a St. Louis prospect, was No. 10 on the Texas League chart.

09 Aug

coming up big

The home run was big, but the single proved bigger for Bobby Bradley on Tuesday night. Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, delivered a walk-off hit in the ninth inning for Akron in a 4-3 win against New Hampshire in the Double-A Eastern League. Bradley hit his 19th homer in the sixth, helping the Rubber Ducks rally from a 3-0 deficit. The lefty-hitting first baseman, 21, one of Cleveland’s highest-rated prospects, is batting .242 with 73 RBIs in his Double-A debut. Bradley has a .335 on-base percentage thanks in part to 49 walks, and he has cut down on strikeouts (95 in 364 at-bats) this year. He is slugging .456. A third-round pick by the Indians in 2014, he has blasted 83 homers in his four pro seasons. He’s getting close. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects, was in New Hampshire’s lineup and went 1-for-4. Alford, 23, batting .308 in his first Class AA campaign, got a cup of coffee in the majors earlier this season before an injury knocked him back to the minors. He’ll likely return to the Blue Jays next month. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves standout Chris Ellis notched his second straight win for Springfield, St. Louis’ Double-A club in the Texas League, on Tuesday. Ellis, who scuffled at Triple-A Memphis to start 2017, is 4-6, 3.60 ERA at Springfield. … Mississippi State product Zac Houston recently was elevated from low-A to high-A ball in the Detroit system. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, a 2016 draftee, has thrown 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances for Lakeland, where he has joined fellow Mississippians Will Allen, Jake Robson and Spencer Turnbull.