What Does the Future Hold for 2020 and Beyond for Young Indians Yu Chang and Bobby Bradley?

Mark Warmuth

When talking about the young players on the roster of the Cleveland Indians, the conversation usually is about guys like Oscar Mercado, presumed to be the starting center fielder, or slugger Franmil Reyes, who many figured could have hit 40 home runs in a full season.

Or people talk about the young arms the Tribe has on the cusp of being quality big league starters, namely Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac, and perhaps Triston McKenzie, who missed all of last year with injuries.

Maybe people will bring up the flame throwers in the bullpen, James Karinchak, Emmanuel Clase, and depending how "in the know" they are, Cam Hill and Kyle Nelson. However, two players who signed and were developed by the organization seem to be forgotten.

Both are 24 years old right now, but it doesn't feel like the Indians have plans for them any more. We are talking about Yu Chang and Bobby Bradley. A right-handed hitter shortstop, Chang debuted in the organization in 2014 in the Arizona Rookie League, and made his mark hitting .346 with 6 HR and a 986 OPS at age 18.

He played in Lake County as a 19-year-old and struggled at the plate batting .232 with nine dingers, and struggled with strike zone judgment, fanning 103 times in 440 plate appearances with just 27 walks.

He rebounded a bit at Lynchburg in 2016 (.259, 13 HR, 70 RBI, 795 OPS, increased walk rate) and had a good stint in the Arizona Fall League, batting .304. However, in the AFL, he fanned 21 times and walked just 3 times.

Moving to AA in '17, Chang did belt 24 homers, but hit just .220 and struck out 134 times in 504 plate appearances. In his first year at AAA in 2018, he batted .256 and followed that hitting .253, with a combined total of 22 homers. In our eyes, you need to have the ability to get on base and/or drive the ball to be a big league hitter.

Since his stint in rookie ball, Chang's high in on base percentage is .332 and his minor league slugging percentage is just .436. In 84 big league at bats, he hit .186 with one homer and whiffed 22 times in 84 PA.

The lack of ability to make contact or have good strike zone judgment is the reason the Tribe signed Cesar Hernandez as a free agent and traded for Christian Arroyo late last season.

And it's going to be tough for infielder to show anything without a true minor league season in 2020.

As for Bradley, he might be able to get a spot on a 30 man daily roster, but it appears he's not in their long range plans as an everyday player.

The left-handed hitter was a third round pick in '14 and dominated the Arizona Rookie League, hitting .361 with 8 HR and 50 RBI (1.078 OPS).

The following year, he started at Lake County, where he belted 27 long balls, hit .269, but fanned 148 times in 465 plate appearances.

He moved to high A Lynchburg for eight hitless at bats, and stayed there in 2016, hitting 29 homers, but his batting average dipped to .239, and although he drew 75 walks, which is good, he whiffed 175 times.

He had a 890 OPS at Lake County, and dropped to 810 at Lynchburg. That figure fell further at Akron in 2017 to 796, as he hit .251 with 23 dingers. The strikeouts dropped to 122, which is good, but so did the walks (55).

He started the next season at Akron, hitting .214 with 24 bombs. His slugging percentage went up slightly, but his on base percentage dropped. He was promoted to Columbus later that season, hitting .254 with three homers in 32 games.

He seemed to change his approach last year, and didn't care as much about cutting down on the strikeouts, accumulating 153 at AAA, but hit 33 homers, and had a 912 OPS.

Bradley had a cup of coffee with the big club, hitting one homer in 49 PA's, but batted just .178 and struck out 20 times.

He's only 24, and sometimes it takes awhile for these power hitters to find their niche in the big leagues, but trading for Reyes during the '19 season and for Jake Bauers before last season, shows us, the contact problem concerns the Indians' brass.

Again, the lack of a minor league season retards the development of both Chang and Bradley, as the duo need regular at bats to develop.

However, it does seem like the front office lost some of their enthusiasm for these two prospects.

On the other hand, sometimes players get one shot, and they have to take advantage of that chance.

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