Hitting is considered a necessity in baseball, as it should be. Normally, big league ballplayers make it to the Show with their bat and maintain their status with it as well.
For Jackie Bradley Jr., such an ability has taken a while to find.
In 2013, JBJ was thought to have enormous potential. He was the Opening Day left fielder for the Boston Red Sox, and was also thought to be a cornerstone piece for the future. With his once in a blue moon type defense and his solid bat, nothing was going to stop Bradley Jr.
Except big league pitching.
JBJ hit .189 in 37 games during the 2013 campaign. He was sent down to Pawtucket. Most believed that once he had some more time in Triple-A to improve his hitting capabilities, he would have no problem at the big league level.
Again a false assumption.
The 2014 season wasn’t much better. In 127 games, he hit .198 and was a clear hole in the lineup. Yes, his defense was incredible and his 13 outfield assists were great. Yet his offense was still too bad to value his defense over.
Changes had to come in 2015 with regard to his hitting, or else it was a sure bet that he would not have a future in the MLB, let alone in Boston.
Prior to Spring Training in 2015, JBJ worked with assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez on his swing. He wanted to shorten his swing, cover more of the plate, and take all of the movement out of his stance. One of his biggest problems was that he was getting beat by fastballs on the inner half and cheating to get to pitches outside.
With all of the work that JBJ had put in, when Spring Training came along, his swings were much quicker, shorter and generating more power.
Despite his success in Spring Training, he still struggled mightily with big league pitching and was called up three times from April 28 to June 25 and was 4-for-30 in that span.
After Shane Victorino was traded on July 27, JBJ was called back up to the bigs, and he made the most of his opportunity. In August, he batted .354, which was enough to boost his final batting average up to .249.
His production in the latter half of 2015 was enough to have him slotted as the 2016 Opening Day center-fielder.
And he hasn’t disappointed.
As of May 15, he’s currently hitting .336 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. He’s also riding a 21-game hitting streak, which is the longest hitting streak in the Majors this year. In a recent series against the Oakland A’s, he had 13 RBIs in 3 games. In two of those games, he had six RBIs in each.
Just to show how impressive Bradley has been since he was called up in August of last year,only Mike Trout beats him in OBP, hits, and home runs (by one). And that’s out of all major statistical categories.
It’s hard to believe how great his revival has been. Most thought he was done in a Red Sox uniform less than a year ago and now look at where he is, the everyday center fielder for the Sox and a more than viable bat in this historic 2016 Red Sox offense.
It just goes to show how hard work and dedication can go a long way.
For Jackie Bradley Jr., it solidified a dream. And I guess you could say the same for Red Sox fans.