Is Jackie Bradley Jr. Finally Coming into His Own?

After winning his first NBA Championship in 2012, Lebron James famously stated “It’s about damn time” when talking to a reporter after the game. As of late, Boston Red Sox fans have been saying the same thing regarding Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley Jr. had some of the highest expectations you could have when starting off a career — he was picked by Sports Illustrated to win the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year and was being counted on to serve as a cornerstone player for the Sox.

He hit a new low for not meeting expectations, which ironically was the only thing that he hit.

When it came to his expectations, Bradley didn’t even really come close to meeting ones that are required of a bench player. In 2013, he batted .189 over 95 at-bats. With numbers as bad as those, he was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket to work on his hitting. In 2014, with expectations lowered and the goal being “hitting the baseball”, he had more at-bats (384) and saw his average rise only a few points (.198). The 2014 season was also riddled with “send-downs”.

Ironically through all of this turmoil, JBJ continued to rake in the minors. He batted .315 in 2012, .275 in 2013, and .305 in 2015. The conclusion going into 2015 was that Bradley Jr. simply just couldn’t hit major league pitching — he was one of the best in the league defensively but one of the worst offensively.

It all became an irrelevant issue when rising star Mookie Betts took to Fenway and made himself everything Bradley Jr. couldn’t in his first two years.

In 2015, it looked as if things would be finished for Bradley as a big-time prospect. He clearly had been replaced and at that point it became “how much could we possibly get for this guy?”  The outfielder’s numbers were bad in the first few months of this season, but he played so little that as true as they were to him, they were too small of a sample size. He only played six games in May, six games in June and five in July.

But on August 9th, things seem to have taken a turn for the better.

At the beginning of August, JBJ assumed the role of starting centerfielder after Betts flew over the bullpen wall and landed on his head, and for the first few days, did well enough to stay. In Detroit on August 9th, he made an incredible Willie Mays-type catch to go along with five RBI’s and a home run. In the two games in Miami, he went 3-for-8 with a home run and another incredible catch in left field, jumping up against the wall.

At home against Seattle, he again ramped it up.

He raised his batting average from .174, to .203, to .250 — all within the span of three games. He went 9-16 in the series and made history in the second game by getting five extra-base hits in one game, as well as driving in seven. As the Red Sox offense exploded, Bradley Jr. drove in 11 runs for the entire three-game set.

As we currently approach mid-August, the question becomes can Bradley Jr. keep his batting stats up and prove he can hit big league pitching? This breakout performance against Seattle may be nothing more than a pair of good games against a lousy team. At this point in another lost season, there is not much keeping the Red Sox from running Bradley Jr. out there every day to see if he has finally figured out how to hit at this level. If Bradley has finally figured out how to hit Major League caliber pitching, he could figure into the starting lineup plans for 2016, or become trade bait.

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