Jackie Bradley Jr.: Time to sell high?
Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is the hottest hitter in the game right now, as he extended his hitting streak to 26 games yesterday. After going 1-2 with 3 walks and a run scored in the Red Sox 9-1 win over the Indians yesterday, Bradley is now hitting .342-.411-.624 with 8 home runs, 23 runs scored, 33 RBI and 2 stolen bases in 168 plate appearances. He is walking in just under 10% of his plate appearances and is striking out at just under a 20% rate.
Is this just a hot streak or should we expect more of the same from Bradley Jr. going forward?
I was having a conversation with some fellow owners in one of my home leagues about this yesterday over text. He was intentionally walked twice yesterday, so pitchers are either fearing him during his hot streak, or they prefer to pitch to catcher Ryan Hanigan who is hitting .179. I think it is more of the latter than the former. One owner opined that he is a 15 home run hitter going forward, while another opined that he is a 25 home run hitter. Let's take a closer look at Bradley Jr.
Looking at Bradley Jr.'s player page over on FanGraphs, he is squaring the ball up much more this season than last, as his hard hit rate sits at a lofty 40% right now. You want to see hitters with a high hard hit rate, for sure. But, his batting average of balls in play, currently at .394. Unless he has a new approach at the plate that I am not aware of, his .394 BABIP will begin to fall at some point.
Then again, we have seen Bradley Jr. get hot for a month and cool off soon after. This month, he is hitting .426-.506-.794 with 7 home runs, 12 runs scored and 20 RBI. His May stats are boosted by a three game series earlier this month vs the Athletics where he hit 3 home runs and drove in 13 runs.
Last August, we saw him put together a month where he hit .354-.429-.734 with 5 home runs, 23 runs scored and 23 RBI. In September, he hit .216-.308-.431 with 5 home runs, 17 runs scored and 17 RBI, so he cooled off at the plate, but continued to hit for power, and score and drive in runs.
Over his last 377 plate appearances, he has hit 17 home runs, scored 63 runs and drove in 73 runs. I began writing this piece with a stance to tell you to sell high on him, but he appears to have reached a new level of performance at the plate and is showing that his performance at the plate over the last two months of the 2015 season was no fluke.
He is on pace to hit .30 home runs and drive in over 100 runs this season. His batting average will come down, but whatever changes he made in his approach at the plate has resulted in more power. I think he can be a consistent 20 home run hitter going forward, and as long as he is making hard contact, the batting average should remain respectable.
I, admittedly, was not a fan of Alex Wood earlier this season, but he has made changes to his mechanics on the mound, releasing the ball from a higher slot, and has become a much more dominant pitcher. Last night, Wood dominated the Padres, limiting them to 2 runs on 4 hits, a walk and striking out 13 batters, a career high. Over his last five starts, Wood 9 runs, on 22 hits, 5 walks and 43 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. He has struck out 7 or more batters in four of his last five starts, and is now 1-3 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and a solid 55-16 strikeout to walk rate in 51.1 innings. His strikeout rate has improved from 17% last season to 25% this season, while his walk rate is relatively unchanged. He is inducing more ground balls and is throwing more first pitch strikes, so he is getting ahead of more hitters this season. He is available in about 55% of ESPN leagues right now, and should be rostered in more leagues than that.
Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna has had his share of struggles in his first few seasons as a major leaguer. Last season, he was demoted to Triple A and was the subject of offseason trade speculation. He came into spring training in better shape after losing 20 pounds in the offseason, and has out-performed expectations in the first two months of the season. After going 3-4 with a double, a triple and a run scored in the Marlins 3-2 win over the Nationals last night, Ozuna is hitting .312-.357-.554 with 8 home runs, 25 runs scored and 22 RBI. His strikeout and walk rate are unchanged from last season, as is his hard hit rate, but he is getting to more of his power this season, as he is on pace for 23 doubles, 15 triples and 31 home runs. Maybe his work with Barry Bonds and Don Mattingly is beginning to show up at the plate. He is available in 30% of leagues right now, so if you are in need of an offensive boost, grab him while you can.
Tigers pitching prospect Michael Fulmer showed us why the Tigers wanted him in a trade with the Mets last season. Last night, Fulmer dominated the Rays, limiting them to just one run on 4 hits, a walk and 11 strikeout in 7 innings in the Tigers 5-4 win. Prior to last night's performance, Fulmer had failed to pitch more than five innings in any of his four starts. Fulmer is striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings, but like many young starters, has been hurt by the walk and the long ball. He is pitching better than his ERA indicates, and if you are in need of a strikeout pitcher, he is available in more than 90% of ESPN leagues right now.
I was having a conversation on Twitter last night about Dodgers young outfielder Trayce Thompson, as manager Dave Roberts batted him in the fifth slot in the Dodgers lineup against a right hander. Our own Tim Finnegan wrote about Thompson earlier this week, saying now is the time to buy him. Last night, Thompson went 1-4 with a two run home run in the Dodgers 3-2 loss to the Padres. He is now hitting .281-.347-.573 with 7 home runs, 16 runs scored, 19 RBI and a 22-9 strikeout to walk rate in 98 plate appearances to date. He has started each of the Dodgers last five games and appears to be their starting left fielder for the foreseeable future. Carl Crawford is not an every day player right now, so the left field job is Thompson's. Yet, manager Dave Roberts will have some lineup decisions to make in the second half of the season when Andre Ether returns from the disabled list. Ethier has a big contract and is still a 2-3 WAR player when healthy. It is possible Ethier takes over left field when he returns, but if Thompson is hitting like this, Ethier could steal some at bats from Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig.
It took him a few years, but it appears Orioles starter Kevin Gausman is reaching his potential on the mound. Last night, he limited the Angels to one run on 8 hits, a walk and 6 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work in the Orioles 3-1 win. He did not earn the decision, and is just 0-1 in his six starts this season, but he owns a 2.70 ERA, 3.31 FIP, a 1.12 WHIP and a 30-8 strikeout to walk rate in 36.2 innings. He has given up two earned runs or less in four of his six starts thus far, and is not being hurt by the long ball like he has in the past. PitchFX data says he is throwing his splitter more this season than last, so the strikeouts should follow.
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