Jackie Bradley Jr. ended his 2016 season with a fizzle and pop, matching the Red Sox underwhelming postseason fiasco. After a season of both success and scrutiny, is he worth a spot on your fantasy team?
Jackie Bradley Jr. left us plenty to think about this offseason. In his third year with the Boston Red Sox, he quickly transformed into a groundbreaking hit monster, only to revert back to his usual slumpy self, all in a matter of months.
Continuing to grow from prospect to professional, Bradley Jr. showed us glimpses of what he may be capable of in the future in his third year in the majors. It’s everything else that came in between those moments that has fans worried, though.
Bradley Jr. easily had one of the weirdest seasons of any outfielder, ever. Between April 24th and May 26th, he safely hit in 29 games, and was sitting with an average of .333 by the end of it. Fantasy owners clamoured to make trades and ride the hot hand, but once on board, plenty of people realised what owning him is all about.
In one word, streaky. For every great stretch of hitting, there was a week of nothingness, and just to put things in perspective, Bradley Jr. managed the entire month of June with a lousy 19 hits.
Obviously, this is frustrating for owners everywhere, but what do you do with a guy who could potentially rank among the Top 20 outfielders again next season? You certainly can’t drop him, right?
Patience. What you have to hang your hat on with him is this: there’s so much more to come.
At 26-years old, Bradley Jr. is still so, so young. Unfortunately, all of his slumps and streaky hitting continue to come from bad mechanics. At the start of the regular season, Bradley Jr.’s bat grip was a lot shorter and choked up higher on the barrel. This resulted in a smaller strike zone, and a lot more hits. For some reason though, he decided to change that successful approach prior to the All Star break, and screw things up by swinging the bat a lot more longer and a lot more wildly.
This simple change in bat grip resulted in plenty of nasty strikeouts. In the month of August Bradley Jr. struck out a high 39-times, and posted a weak line of just .198AVG/13RBI’s/5HR’s. Simply put, he strikes out swinging and missing a lot, and to drive owners even more mental, he does it while swinging at pitches in the dirt.
The downfall of owning Bradley Jr. is just that. He’ll have weeks of offensive brilliance that make you think he is perhaps just as good as Mookie Betts, while in reality, he continues to flirt with solid and weak contact on the ball constantly.
Perhaps some of Bradley Jr’s. seemingly terrible slumps are on owners’ expectations though. It could be said that we are asking too much of a guy that plays right next to a potential MVP, and after posting such a respectable hitting streak early in the season, of course anything that falls short will be scrutinised to death.
Don’t take it the wrong way, Bradley Jr. definitely comes with his own problems. It was evident in the postseason as he went hitless, and failed to produce any offense at all when the Red Sox needed it the most, but his flaws definitely shouldn’t overshadow his upside.
For well prepared owners who are already planning for their draft next year, there’s still plenty to get excited about. Although Bradley Jr. was very hot and cold, particularly towards the middle of the season, he wasn’t completely useless. The great part about hid game is his underrated power, as he hit 26HR’s this season, a career high. Remarkably, 14 of those HR’s came on the road, a big positive for a young hitter.
The final point to take away from Bradley Jr. heading into next season should also come from manager John Farrell. He performed significantly better when he batted deep in the lineup, and with guys like David Ortiz gone and Andrew Benintendi likely to receive solid game time, it will be interesting to see if Farrell chooses to bat him late in the order next season.
If you’re in a keeper league, Bradley Jr. is one of the most promising young outfielders you can own. For those who have him on their draft board, his Gold Glove like defensive ability alone should have you sold. If he can figure out his bat and improve even more so this offseason, he might continue to prove he’s one of the biggest offensive monsters in Boston’s lineup.