It’s always frustrating when heavily anticipated prospects don’t immediately live up to their hype, and for Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., that’s exactly what happened this season. The difference between the two, however, is how they are expected to rebound from a dismal 2014 campaign.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Xander Bogaerts. I love the way he carries himself, both on and off the field. I loved how he handled himself last postseason, making the most of his playing time in both the ALCS and World Series, playing a valued role in helping the Red Sox win their third World Series in the last decade. For a 21-year-old kid, that’s really impressive.
2014 was a Jekyll-and-Hyde year for Bogaerts. Through the first few days of June, he was hitting .306, playing solid defense, and helping to shoulder the load in a Red Sox lineup that was beginning to falter. After the Red Sox foolishly brought back Stephen Drew, however, Bogaerts saw his production go into a tailspin. Moving over to third base – something Bogaerts had worked extremely hard in the minor leagues to avoid – his defense became his liability, his average dropped nearly 75 points, and the confidence of the heralded prospect seemed shattered.
I’m one of those Red Sox fans who places the majority of the blame on an inept front office who broke the confidence of a 21-year-old kid who could very well become the Sox shortstop for the next decade. In addition, Boston’s unstable lineup didn’t help matters. Bogaerts should be the shortstop next year as well, and now surrounded by a lineup that includes Cespedes in addition to Ortiz and Pedroia, Bogaerts very well may become the All-Star next year that everyone expects him to be.
Jackie Bradley Jr., meanwhile, is a much more interesting case. Defensively, he’s as good as they come, and certainly would’ve won a Gold Glove had he not been sent down. His offense is another story. He has this long, powerful swing that seems like he’s trying to send every pitch into the bullpen. Major league pitchers see that, and make him look foolish at the plate.
Jerry Remy brought up an interesting point on Bradley over the summer, essentially calling out the Red Sox hitting coach in the process. Remy basically said that at this point, Bradley needs to decide what type of hitter he is: a power hitter, or more of a “slap hitter” in the Dustin Pedroia mold.
Remy went through the same thing himself in his playing days with Boston, and a quick look at his numbers shows that his decision to become a “singles hitter” paid off. After making that transition before the 1979 season, Remy never hit another major league homer, but his average shot up greatly, hitting .297 in ’79, .313 in ’80, and .307 in ’81. Although each of those seasons were shortened by injury, it shows how such a transition can be beneficial to a ballplayer.
The real issue for Bradley, however, is placing him in the Red Sox lineup next year. Rusney Castillo, the $72.5 million man, will be the centerfielder, with Cespedes in left and a combination of Betts, Victorino and Craig in right. Bradley has too much value to be a backup, and he would be best suited elsewhere. Hopefully, he can help entice Miami to part with Giancarlo Stanton…