The season’s first half led to some good shock rookie performances. Yermín Mercedes took the league by storm in April, hitting for a 1.113 OPS and 206 wRC+. Adolis García rode an unbelievable stretch in Could, throughout which he slashed .338/.376/.700, to his first All-Star look as a reserve outfielder. Late to the social gathering is Cleveland rookie Bobby Bradley. Referred to as up on June 5, he has thrived in his second alternative within the huge leagues, having slugged 10 house runs in 119 plate appearances. He cruised into the break hitting .240/.336/.577 with a wRC+ of 143, tied for second with Jake Fraley amongst all rookies with at the very least 100 plate appearances:
Rookie Hitting Leaderboard
Minimal 100 plate appearances.
The door opened for Bradley after the departure of Carlos Santana in free company and the more moderen commerce of Jake Bauers. Bradley wasn’t precisely raking in Triple-A (his slash line was .196/.266/.485 on the time of his call-up) however he should have impressed Cleveland’s coaches and entrance workplace sufficient throughout his time on the alternate website and spring coaching to earn the chance.
It’s not Bradley’s first foray into the large leagues. Though he peaked on FanGraphs’ prospect rankings in 2018 (fourth within the Cleveland group), his efficiency took a small step backwards that 12 months and saved him in Double-A for a lot of the season. He rebounded in 2019, although, and that’s when he punched his ticket to the large leagues. Issues didn’t go so nicely. The concern for a hitter with Bradley’s profile is that the excessive quantity of whiffs in opposition to minor league pitching (he went down on strikes 153 instances in 2019 in Triple-A) spins uncontrolled on the subsequent stage; for Bradley it did precisely that. It was an especially small pattern, however one during which he managed to rack up 20 strikeouts in simply 49 plate appearances, good for a 40.8 Ok%.
Bradley’s struggles with breaking pitches (particularly sliders) triggered sufficient concern that his cup of espresso solely lasted three weeks. In keeping with Statcast, Bradley noticed 52 sliders in 2019 and hit for a .046 wOBA on such pitches. His swinging strike fee on sliders was 27%; he didn’t get a single hit off of a slider that season. After a wait of just about two years, he’s demonstrated all through his second stint within the majors that he can now hit an enormous league slider:
Bobby Bradley vs. Sliders
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
4 of Bradley’s 10 homers on the season have come in opposition to the pitch. His swinging strike fee is down a bit at round 20%, however he’s clearly seeing the pitch higher. This proves out in how he’s reacting to sliders out of the zone. Bradley chased sliders out of the zone at a fee of 45% in 2019, with a SwStr% of 32.5%. He’s almost minimize that SwStr% in half this season, bringing it all the way down to 17.7%.
It’s not simply sliders although. His skill to see the ball has typically improved. His O-Swing% has dropped from 35.3% to 26.5%. This has resulted in a major enchancment in his stroll fee (8.2% to 10.9%) and strikeout fee (40.8% to 30.3%). Sustaining these enhancements is completely very important to Bradley’s survival on the huge league stage. Previous to being known as up in 2019, he had gained numerous momentum as a prospect by mashing house runs within the minor leagues. His ascent via Cleveland’s system since being drafted in 2014 included stops at each minor league affiliate and he didn’t miss a beat. Bradley clubbed house runs with exceptional consistency, hitting house runs at a fee between 4% and 6% throughout every cease previous to Triple-A. As soon as he hit Columbus, Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate, his fee jumped north of seven%, however all or a part of the rise might be defined by Columbus’ HR park issue of 1.105. However he additionally began to strike out extra ceaselessly. Previous to reaching Triple-A, Bradley struck out in 26.4% of his at-bats. That’s not nice, nevertheless it’s definitely palatable given his skill to hit for energy. At Triple-A, nevertheless, his Ok% has shot as much as 33.5%; this isn’t a superb development.
At his present charges, Bradley ranks 18th on the three true outcomes (TTO) leaderboard amongst hitters with at the very least 100 plate appearances:
Main League TTO Leaderboard, 2021
Minimal 100 plate appearances.
The 49.6 TTO% for Bradley in 2021 is eerily just like his 51.0 TTO% from his 49 plate appearances in ‘19. He averaged a forty five.6 TTO% within the minors. Bradley will at all times have a excessive TTO%; his profile is outlined by it. His skill to hit for large energy has by no means been doubtful; Bradley’s uncooked energy as measured by most exit velocity has ranked him within the 91st percentile or above over his two temporary stints within the majors. He’s going to hit house runs. However his adjustment to sliders has made an enormous distinction within the distribution of homers, walks, and strikeouts inside his TTO profile. If Bradley can hold punishing balls like this hanging slider from Danny Duffy, he’ll proceed to thrive:
However the TTO tightrope stroll is troublesome to drag off. Pitchers, even with out sticky substances, are extremely efficient at exposing hitters’ weaknesses. Bradley has a 30.3 Ok% now, however what’s going to that quantity be on the finish of the season? His 690 plate appearances in Triple-A recommend that his true Ok% could also be a bit increased than what he’s completed to date this season. As we’ve seen along with his peer rookie standouts Mercedes and García, rookies are likely to hit some adversity as pitchers study extra a couple of hitter’s tendencies.
Nearly as good as Bradley has been, nevertheless, there’s nonetheless potential that he may enhance on his torrid begin. He has had a knack for hitting the ball within the air, but he at present has a groundball fee of 51.5%, greater than 5% increased than in any earlier season as an expert. Consequently, his typical fee of hitting balls within the air has suffered. His 30.9 FB% would put him within the 18th percentile amongst qualifying hitters — not what you’d count on from a hitter with a fly ball pedigree. It might be a little bit of a shock if his FB% didn’t development upwards a couple of notches nearer to how he hit as a minor leaguer.
Bobby Bradley has been an ideal shock within the final month and a half. He slid from as excessive as fourth on Cleveland’s prospect record in 2018 all the way in which all the way down to thirty seventh on this 12 months’s. His high quality of contact has been nice. His 22% barrel fee leads all rookies and is third amongst all hitters with at the very least 100 plate appearances (behind simply Mike Zunino and Shohei Ohtani). As a TTO hitter with huge energy, the important thing for Bradley staying on the huge league stage hinges on his skill to maintain his strikeout fee in test. For him, sustaining a strikeout fee simply north of 30 is a wholesome place to be. Throw in a stroll fee over 10 and 30 house runs in a full season’s price of plate appearances and Cleveland has itself an above-average first baseman underneath a number of years of staff management. The issue is that these hitters are a lot better in concept than they’re in observe; they’re outliers. Since 2017, there have solely been 5 such seasons:
Main League Seasons with > 30 HR, > 10 BB%, > 30 Ok% Since 2017
As a lot as the sport is trending in the direction of TTO fashion of play, there are nonetheless few gamers who can succeed when the strikeout portion takes too giant of a share. Bradley might be the subsequent identify to hitch that brief record, nevertheless it’s not going to return simply.