For Bradley, Boston is a homecoming

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com

This offseason Josh Jackson is looking at some of the top prospects who prepared for professional ball by spending time in a collegiate wood bat league, considering how those summers got them ready for the Draft and future success in the Minors.

MLB.com’s No. 27 top prospect, Jackie Bradley Jr., grew up in Virginia and played his college ball for the Gamecocks in South Carolina, but by the time he made his pro debut in the Red Sox system with the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners in 2011, the Southern-bred outfielder had already made a splash in New England.

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Tom Priddy/MiLB.com

After a freshman year in which he earned SEC All-Freshman honors, Bradley suited up for the Hyannis Mets  (now called the Hyannis Harbor Hawks) in the prestigious wood-bat Cape Cod League. He put together, in the span of 43 games, a tale of two seasons.

In June, Bradley struggled to get to the Mendoza Line, but from July 1 through the rest of the summer circuit, he batted .306 to finish the season with a .275 average. In a league that generally favors pitchers and more veteran hitters, the 19-year-old had six doubles, four triples and 10 stolen bases in 13 attempts. He struck out 20 times, but he also had 17 walks.

Maybe a large part of Bradley’s turnaround after the slow start was simply a matter of adjusting to a new league. But three years later, when the top Red Sox prospect was playing for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, his former Hyannis coach told the Portland Press Herald that the youngster’s mental makeup made success inevitable on the Cape.

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Photo courtesy of Portland Sea Dogs

“What separates the great ones from good ones is how they handle failure and overcome it,” said Chad Gassman, who’s still the head coach in Hyannis. “Jackie is a grinder — he’s not going to let a situation get him down. Scouts want to see how you persevere, and Jackie did just that.”

He also showed off the skill– even after he batted .275 with 39 extra-base hits and a .374 on-base percentage at the Triple-A level in 2013 — about which many Boston fans are most excited.

Despite his performance (and the presence on the Mets roster of other future pros such as the Mariners’ Jamal Austin and the Giants’ Jake Dunning), Hyannis finished 16-21-1.

During the 2010 college season, though, Bradley had the pleasure of playing for a winner. The Gamecocks were champions at the College World Series, and Bradley was named Most Outstanding Player.

Anemic hitting and a season-shortening wrist injury during his junior year made Bradley’s Draft prospect status plummet, but given the player he’s proven to be, the Red Sox were lucky to get him with the 40th overall pick in 2011.

That September, SoxProspects.com asked him about his time on the Cape a couple summers prior.

“It was great to play in such a competitive league and see how passionate baseball was in New England,” he said.

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