In 2016, Bradley Jr. went from a defensive specialist to an all-around superstar. The center fielder had career highs in almost every offensive category.
While the left-handed hitter’s batting average (.267) and on-base percentage (.349) both still need improvement, his other categories were off the charts — 30 doubles, seven triples, 26 home runs and nine steals were complimented by 87 runs batted in and 94 runs scored.
Those are traditionally top-or-middle of the lineup numbers. While they seem that way, Bradley Jr. spent a decent amount of time right at the bottom of the lineup.
This season should see more of the same. Due to a loaded lineup, Bradley Jr. might not have anywhere else to go but down. Nevertheless, that may be where he (and the fans) want to see him hitting in the lineup, right at the bottom.
In 38 games batting out of the ninth spot, Bradley Jr. hit .341 (.388 OBP). He also drove in 31 runs and scored 24 more. He added 10 doubles, three triples and six home runs in that time. His numbers in the eighth spot were impressive as well (.333 average, .400 OBP).
While he mashed at the bottom, his numbers everywhere else weren’t pretty. Batting in the sixth spot, Bradley Jr. managed decent production. In 56 games, he hit .263 (.356 OBP) with 12 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs, 34 RBI and 42 runs scored.
In 48 games combined out of the first, second, fourth, fifth, and seventh spots, things didn’t go well. The 26-year-old hit .197 (34-for-173) with six doubles, one triple and seven home runs. His 13 RBI and 19 runs scored didn’t help his case.
Due to his incredible nine-hole production, that .197 average didn’t derail his season like it would’ve in the past.
While hitting low in the order may hurt most players’ chances at producing runs, this won’t be the case here. Due to the stacked Boston lineup, Bradley Jr. will have plenty of at-bats with runners on base. Hanley Ramirez could be on base, as could Sandy Leon or Andrew Benintendi, or any number of fantastic hitters. With that in mind, Bradley Jr. isn’t your typical nine-hitter.
With Gold Glove caliber defense and a shiny new bat, Bradley Jr. isn’t just the most dangerous nine hitter in baseball anymore. He’s officially an MVP candidate.