BOSTON (CBS) — When Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled at the plate in his first three major league seasons, it appeared his offense would never come close to matching his Gold Glove-caliber defense. But the 26-year-old emerged in 2016 as a legitimate offensive threat in the Red Sox’ deep, powerful lineup, to go with his already-superb fielding.
Bradley took an 0-1 fastball from the Baltimore Orioles’ Kevin Gausman out of Camden Yards for his 26th home run of the season Tuesday night, upping his RBI total to 87. Bradley is slashing .276/.355/.505 in 2016 after just .213/.290/.349 in his first 238 career games.
The center fielder took a jab at the media and fans who may have been ready to write him off as a purely defensive player after a slow start to his career at the plate. When asked by WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jonny Miller if he was surprised by his power output in 2016, Bradley replied, “Not surprised. But, not too shabby for a defensive specialist.”
Advanced stats would tell you that Bradley’s defense has not been among the best in all of baseball, but his Defensive Runs Above Replacement (Def) of 4.6 ranks him fifth among all center fielders in the major leagues. A near-30-home run campaign in 2016, combined with defense ranging from very good to elite, has transformed Bradley into one of the better all-around outfielders in the American League.