There is no question which positional player on the Red Sox (25-17) has single-handedly overachieved thus far to an almost insane level: center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Boston’s 1st round draft pick in 2011 has always possessed a Gold Glove caliber elite defensive ability that ensured he’d always have a roster spot somewhere in Major League Baseball. However, nobody could have possibly predicted the way that he has started the 2016 regular season: he’s currently riding an MLB-best 25-game hit streak (going into Saturday’s game vs. Cleveland) and his statistics are otherworldly: .340 batting average (tied for 2nd in American League), .399 on-base percentage (3rd in AL), .626 slugging percentage (3rd in AL), 33 RBIs (3rd in AL) and four triples (tied for 1st in AL).
So who is the real JBJ? The guy who looked hopeless at the plate in his first two years in MLB (in 2013 he hit .189 and in 2014 he hit .198) or the one who seemed to find himself in August and September of 2015 (hitting .294 avg./.366 OBP/.613 SLG over the last 50 games)? As always, in extreme situations like this the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. He won an NCAA title at South Carolina in 2010 and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. Furthermore, he reached the Red Sox in only his third professional season after quickly progressing through their minor league system so it’s not like he came out of nowhere. Granted taking much stock from games when your team is completely out of contention is similar to coming up with grand predictions after a successful Spring Training.
The good news for Bradley is that even when the inevitable slump occurs for him sometime later this year, it shouldn’t make too much of a dent on the Red Sox’ excellent offense. Remember, he started this season batting ninth and only recently has been moved up a bit in the order by manager John Farrell (such as seventh on Friday). With Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, David Ortiz, etc. all producing in front of him, he’s basically guaranteed to see some decent pitches from time to time. Now he’s proven that he can do more on a baseball field than just make spectacular catches and outfield assists.
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Boston concludes this homestand with three games against the Rockies (20-21 entering Saturday). Colorado is currently tied with Los Angeles (21-22) for second-place in the NL West that only features one team above .500 (San Francisco who is 25-19). The Rockies surprisingly have been better on the road (12-11) than they have been at Coors Field (8-10). Rookie shortstop Trevor Story (.280 batting average, 12 home runs, 31 RBIs) has been one of the best stories in MLB this season and third baseman Nolan Arenado (.314 batting average, 14 home runs, 34 RBIs) would be one of the game’s biggest superstars if he were on a bigger market club. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but the Rockies have a terrible pitching rotation that will surely hold them back from going anywhere.