Jackie Bradley improving offensively has been a very positive sign as the Boston Red Sox enter the second month of the 2016 season. Bradley has been susceptible to criticism surrounding his offensive game throughout his young career. In 2014, he hit below the Mendoza line, with a .198 batting average in 423 at bats. 2015 was a career year for Bradley, finishing with a .249 batting average. One typically wouldn’t consider that a career season, but for Bradley, it certainly was. Coming into the 2016 season there were still question marks surrounding Bradley’s offensive production. Was his 2015 season just a fluke or was it his coming out party?
After the first month of the 2016 season, the answer to that question reflects the latter. In fact, he seems to be getting even better as he sees more at bats and his true coming out party may still be ahead. Bradley hit .272 in the first month of the year, including a clutch game tying double off the monster against Masahiro Tanaka this past weekend in a series that the Sox swept against the New York Yankees.
Jackie Bradley Improving: What’s next?
Bradley’s walk rate has been inconsistent. He has been above the major league average in walk rating two of the past three seasons and is below the major league average so far this season, walking just 6.5 percent of the time. Hitting out of the nine spot in the order, drawing walks is ultra important to set up lead off man Mookie Betts with a favorable position at the plate. If Bradley draws more walks, he will set up more run scoring opportunities for one of the game’s best young hitters in Betts. Betts provides more power than Bradley, offering some of the quickest hands in the game today. While Betts has shown more power than Bradley up to this point in their careers, last year’s interim manager and Red Sox bench coach, Torey Luvullo, believes Bradley can turn into a 20-30 homer guy at the big league level.
When interviewed by the Boston Globe’s Jason Mastrodonato last season, Luvollo said “What Jackie’s showing us right now tells me he can hit 20 to 30 home runs. Mookie’s right at 15 to 20. Rusney with a full season could hit 15 to 20, as well. For me, it’s about the production and their ability to produce runs and create runs. The home runs are a product of good swings, and they’re thrown, not hit — taking advantage of mistakes.” Those are some very high expectations for a player that hit just .198 two years ago. I see Bradley as a guy who will hit .270 with 15 homers and 70 RBI’s at his peak. Clearly the belief is there in the clubhouse for Bradley becoming a force at this level. Will he fulfill their belief? These next couple seasons will answer that.
Still just 26 years of age, Bradley is entering his prime years as a baseball player. These improvements have been a welcoming sign for both the team and Bradley’s future as a major league player. The question with Bradley is no longer whether or not he can hit major league pitching, but rather how much better he can get at doing so. This year will be a big year for Bradley as he is eligible for arbitration next season. An impressive season will enable him to demand more money from the team in the off-season. Bradley has earned the respect defensively and it is time for fans to start respecting him offensively as well. However, don’t be expecting 30 homers from this guy anytime soon.