FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Farrell was in his first year as Cleveland’s director of player development in 2002 when Indians general manager Mark Shapiro pulled off one of the great trades of this or any other era, sending ace Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos for three prospects who all became stars: second baseman Brandon Phillips, left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Grady Sizemore.
The three so far have accounted for eight All-Star appearances, a Cy Young Award, and five Gold Gloves. Sizemore, 19, was the one who achieved stardom first, making his big-league debut in 2004 and becoming an All-Star at age 23 in 2006, when he led the American League in WAR (6.5). Surgeries on both knees sabotaged Sizemore’s career -- he has played a total of 104 games in the last two seasons, and is an unsigned free agent recovering from microfracture surgery on his right knee last September.
But when Farrell was with him, Sizemore was a superstar in the making. Monday morning, I asked Farrell if he saw any similarities between Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr., the Sox center field prospect who has been performing to rave reviews this spring.
“Similar temperament," Farrell said. “What I mean by that is, nothing was taken for granted. They hustled at every play, every turn down the baseline, every chance they got at the plate, everything they had was all out.
“Both have very good defensive capabilities. Jackie has a better throwing arm. The one thing that came late for Grady was power. Not much power in the minor leagues, but that blossomed later on. You see a similar approach to the game, in terms of how they watch the game, how they interact with people. They’re humble, yet they don’t take anything for granted."
The most home runs Sizemore hit in the minors was 13 for Double-A Akron in 2003, when he was 20. He had four straight seasons of 22 or more home runs beginning in 2005, topping out at 33 in 2008, the last full season in which he was healthy. Bradley hit 9 home runs in 575 plate appearances split between Class A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2012, his first full season in pro ball.
Could his power blossom late as well? Farrell noted that Sizemore was drafted out of high school, while Bradley came out of college, an older and more physically mature player.
“We feel there’s a mid-teens type home run production from Jackie," Farrell said. “That’s not to limit it by any means, but that’s kind of the feel, the projection you get from him. Time will tell."