Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Bradley didn't do so hot in his first taste of the majors -- shocker there, given he skipped Triple-A entirely after roughly a year of professional baseball in order to get to the bigs for Opening Day. He's back where he belongs in a world where David Ortiz is healthy and in Boston, though, and now that the environment is right, so too is Bradley's production. It's been just 26 plate appearances, but now that major-league pitchers aren't busting a 23-year-old lefty inside at-bat after at-bat, he can once again make contact and draw walks.
The power isn't there yet, but again, it's 26 plate appearances: this isn't any less surprising than if he had come down and smacked a couple of homers, skewing things in the opposite direction. Plus, Bradley's time at High-A Salem -- and his ridiculous spring -- have probably muddled the picture of what it is we should actually be expecting from him. Bradley is, in all likelihood, going to end up pretty close to his Double-A line from 2012 of .271/.373/.437. That's enough contact to do something with, and more than enough walks to balance out that he'll have some pop, but likely nothing approaching the .526 slugging he put up while in High-A. It should be noted, too, that his slugging was inflated by a .359 batting average -- his Isolated Power from that stretch was .167, just one point higher than that of his Double-A ISO. It's good to see the underlying production persist despite a massive drop in batting average.
If that's who Bradley will become, that's a pretty useful outfielder thanks to the on-base percentage and ability to hit some doubles, but what will make him a great center fielder rather than a decent one is his defense. If he's getting on base at a .360-.370 clip, hitting doubles, and playing Gold Glove-caliber D in center, he's probably got a couple of all-star seasons in him when the power shows up a little more than usual. Just, as his April in Boston reminded us, not quite yet.
Rubby De La Rosa, RHP
De La Rosa has only thrown 9-2/3 innings in four starts because he's on a program to limit his workload as he rebuilds his arm strength. If he wasn't on a strict regimen, though, it's hard to think he would have seen much more work than he is given he's walking everyone and allowing homers at an alarming rate. It's early, though, and it's not even 10 innings. He's got some things to work through, but that's why he's in Triple-A and not the majors.
As the season progresses, his walk rate is going to be important, though. Command and control will determine whether De La Rosa's ultimate role is in the bullpen tossing high-leverage frames, or if it's in the middle of a future Boston rotation. He's just 24, and has even less development time behind him than that age suggest given he lost a season and change to Tommy John surgery, so there's still plenty of time to answer that all-important question.
Bryce Brentz, RF
Brentz is doing better than the last time he was in Pawtucket, but he's not doing very much to impress as of yet. He's struck out 18 times already, or 23 percent of the time, and has walked in just under eight percent of his plate appearances. Neither is bad, but they aren't deserving of a pat on the back, either. You probably could have guessed that from the ho-hum batting line he's put up to this point.
That's not mean to disparage, Brentz, by the way. He's making progress, it's just maybe not as fast as some envisioned after his ridiculous 2011 season. But 2012 was much the same as you should expect 2013 to be, in that he'll have moments of clarity where baseballs that meet his bat never land again, and other, more infuriating moments bridging the glorious ones where he punches out constantly and rarely sees even first base. He's hitting .194 with nine strikeouts in his last 10 games, so you can guess which end of the spectrum he's currently visiting.
What's going to be key for him is to continue to narrow that gap between his strikeout and walk rates, keep putting the ball in play, and hit with enough consistent authority to make him appear to be something besides just a dangerous, lefty-mashing platoon player. His future role has not been decided yet, but what he does this season at Triple-A will go a long way towards determining what that ultimately becomes.
Read more Red Sox:
- Can we trust Clay Buchholz’s strikeout rates?
- Time for Carl Crawford to stop talking about the Red Sox
- When losing 13-0 isn’t awful
- The value of Felix Doubront to the Boston Red Sox
- In defense of Stephen Drew