|Boras: Red Sox draftee Bradley preparing to return to school||07.12.11 at 1:28 pm ET|
PHOENIX — Jackie Bradley, a center fielder whom the Red Sox selected out of the University of South Carolina with the No. 40 overall pick of the 2011 draft, surprised many by returning from surgery to repair torn tendons in his left wrist in time to play for the Gamecocks as they defended their College World Series title.
It was a satisfying coda to what was a difficult year. Prior to his injury, Bradley — the best player at USC in his freshman and sophomore seasons — had struggled to a .247 average, .346 OBP, .432 slugging mark and six homers in 42 games. Then, his season-ending injury ensured that he wouldn’t have a chance to improve his draft stock down the stretch (his return for the College World Series came after this year’s amateur draft).
And so, a player who was viewed as a mid- to late-first round selection entering the 2011 draft instead ended up being drafted in the supplemental first round. Despite the injury and the down year of performance, the Sox still regarded Bradley’s center field defense highly, and felt that he offered the potential for above-average defense in center field with double-digit home run power.
Bradley, who was the MVP of the College World Series in 2010, hit .174 with a .240 OBP and a .217 slugging mark in this year’s tournament. Given his down performance year and the fact that he was coming off an injury, it seemed fair to wonder whether Bradley might follow a similar path to a player whom the Sox had taken one year earlier with the No. 39 pick — right-hander Anthony Ranaudo — who likewise dealt with injuries and performance issues as a junior but used a stint in the Cape League in order to try to command a bonus commensurate with his preseason status.
But Bradley — who, like Ranaudo, is advised by Scott Boras — will not follow that course. Instead, he is working out this summer, though Boras suggested from the All-Star festivities that Bradley is doing so with a return to USC in mind, rather than the start of his professional career.
“He’s doing well. He just had the wrist issue. He was able to come back and compete very, very well. He should be fine,” said Boras. “[He is] probably not [playing this summer]. We’re just having him work on his strength and getting him ready to go back to college.”
Such threats would typically carry little weight, since college seniors have little leverage in the draft. That said, Boras clients have, on occasion, returned to college for their senior year. For instance, catcher Jason Varitek and pitchers James Paxton and Luke Hochevar all returned to school when they were unable to reach an agreement with the teams that took them with a high draft pick.
Varitek was taken in the first round (No. 21 overall) by the Twins in 1993, and was selected by the Mariners with the No. 14 overall pick the following year. Paxton was a supplemental first rounder (No. 37) of the Blue Jays in 2009 who went in the fourth round to the Mariners the following year. Hochevar, like Bradley, was selected with the No. 40 overall pick in the 2005 draft, pitched in an independent league and was selected No. 1 overall by the Royals in 2006.
Sources familiar with the talks suggest that the Sox and Bradley have been nowhere close in their preliminary negotiations. That said, that has been a frequent pattern for the Sox in negotiations with players advised by Boras, who frequently end up signing close to (or at) the Aug. 15 signing deadline.
Certainly, if he finds the Sox’ offer unsatisfying, Bradley could return to school in hopes that improved performance, along with a weaker draft class in 2012 (2011 was regarded as a very strong class), might improve his draft position (and corresponding bonus) next year.
Whether such a scenario unfolds will likely become become clearer in about a month, as the signing deadline approaches.
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