It took time. It usually does.
"It’s tough," Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. told MassLive.com in 2014. "[I've] never been really known to strike out at this alarming rate but I’m going to keep battling, keep working.”
Bradley Jr. said that in August 2014. Not even two full years ago, Bradley Jr. hit .198/.265/.266 in with 121 strikeouts in 423 plate appearances when given the starting job in Boston.
Maybe he was rushed and just wasn't ready for the big leagues. Bradley Jr. first found himself in the Majors in 2013, just two years after the Red Sox picked him in the 1st round (40th overall) in the 2011 draft out of the University of South Carolina.
Maybe there was too much pressure. The Red Sox were coming off a World Series winning season in 2013, but then went 71-91 the following year.
Bradley Jr. was a consensus top prospect coming into the 2014 season, rated as high as No. 23 in the minor leagues by Baseball Prospectus. Perhaps he just needed time to adjust to Major League pitching.
Whatever the case, Jackie Bradley Jr. has broke out in 2016, building off of some legitimate big league success last year.
In a 28 game stretch rom August 6 to September 7, Bradley Jr. hit .424/.480/.880 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs in 102 plate appearances. He struck out just 27 times.
"Let’s just say I feel more comfortable," Bradley Jr. told the Boston Globe in 2015. "I'm proud that I never changed as a person. I had to change as a hitter."
And now, Bradley Jr. is beginning to put himself in some rare company.
With a single in the fourth against the Rockies tonight, Bradley Jr. has hit safely in 29 striaght games. Just 47 players in Major League history have a 30+ game hit streak. Bradley Jr. is right on the verge.
"If it's meant to end, it's meant to end," Bradley Jr. told NESN.com on Sunday. "I'm just going to do what I have to do and grind and put together some great at-bats."
Bradley Jr.'s season has been much more than just a streak, however.
Before Wednesday's game, he was hitting .346/.415/.622 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs in 176 plate appearances. Bradley Jr. has just 34 strikeouts and 17 walks. He has been worth 1.9 fWAR in just 44 games, good for a 6.4 fWAR pace (150 games).
Maybe all Bradley Jr. needed was some time.
Ever since coming up to the big leagues in 2013, all Marlins outfielder Chrisitan Yelich has done is hit.
In his first full season in 2014, Yelich hit for a .284/.362/.402 line with nine home runs, 54 RBI, and 21 stolen bases (caught seven times) in 660 plate appearances. He established himself as the perfect top of the order type for the Marlins and even brought him some hardware for his defense, earning Gold Glove honors.
Yelich is just 24 now, but he is already well on his way in becoming one of the Majors' best players.
In 39 games into Wednesday, Yelich was slashing .317/.422/.525 with five homers, 19 RBI, and three stolen bases (caught twice) in 166 plate appearances. He's already walked 24 times and struck out just 29.
Yelich's walk percentage (percent of plate appearances that end in a walk) is 14.5 percent, good for 19th in the Majors and his walks per strikeout is 0.88, good for 23rd. Overall, Yelich has a 1.5 fWAR, good for 22nd in baseball and the highest on the Marlins.
Something that Yelich has begun to do this season is hit for power, as his .209 isolated power (average subtracted from slugging percentage) is well above his career average of .125 and his 2015 mark of .116.
In fact, Yelich's isolated power this season is higher than some actual power hitters, including the likes of Miguel Sano, Edwin Encarnacion, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Correa, Maikel Franco, Miguel Cabrera, and others.
Is this type of power from Yelich sustainable? Some data suggests that it's not.
Yelich's home run per fly ball rate is a sky-high 23.8 percent, meaning that almost 24 out of every 100 fly balls Yelich hits will go for home runs. An average home run per fly ball rate is around 9.5 percent and an excellent one is considered to be around 20 percent.
Considering Yelich's career home run per fly ball ratio is 14 percent, it's not likely that he will hit a lot of home runs. Yelich is, however, hitting more fly balls this season as compared to last and is making more hard contact, both of which could lead to more homers.
And besides, why do the Marlins need Yelich to hit for more power anyway? He's already got four tools: hit, run, arm, and defense. And that is what is making him one of the best players in baseball.
The American League West could have its fourth different division winner in as many seasons.
The Seattle Mariners have opened as the favorite to win the division six weeks into the season. According to FanGraphs.com (into Saturday), the Mariners have a 49.7 percent chance to win the AL West, the best odds of any team thus far.
Coming into Saturday, the Mariners are surprising many at 21-15. The team has been mediocre since 2012, posting a 309-339 record (.477 winning percentage). They failed to meet lofty expectations in 2015, with some experts picking them to win the American League prior to the season's start.
Perhaps the man most significant in the Mariners' newfound success is general manager Jerry Dipoto.
The 47-year-old Dipoto was hired by Seattle in September 2015, coming off of a rocky tenure in Los Angeles with the Angels followed by an advisory job with the Red Sox.
The analytically-friendly Dipoto had something in Seattle that he just didn't have in Los Angeles: free reign. With the Angels, owner Arte Moreno called many of the shots, having involvement in many of the signings that have constituted a "downfall" in Los Angeles.
Dipoto also struggled to build a relationship with manager Mike Scioscia, and they often had disagreements over the use of analytics in game situations.
Nonetheless, it's hard to say Dipoto had a good run with the Angels. But with the Mariners, he has gotten to show his true creativity, beginning with the hiring of manager Scott Servais, someone who is known for embracing advanced statistics and their usage.
During the offseason, there did not seem to be a day that went by without a Mariners' move.
New faces in Seattle included Nate Karns, Leonys Martin, Chris Iannetta, Joaquin Benoit, Nori Aoki, and Adam Lind.
Those acquisitions, which have been worth about a win above replacement, coupled with a huge rebound season for Robinson Cano (1.7 fWAR in 36 games), have led the Mariners to a great start.
This team seems to be what the Angels never were: a team that Dipoto constructed. And that's why they've been so successful.
It's a little ridiculous that I even have to write this article.
After the season's first two weeks, Angels outfielder Mike Trout was struggling mightily.
Through 14 games, Trout was hitting .220/.333/.340 with just one home run and four RBIs in 60 plate appearances, 16 of which ended with a strikeout.
The internet (believe it or not) was actually worried that Trout's reign as a superstar was over. The 24-year-old had the worst first-14 game start in his career, excluding his first taste of the big leagues in 2011.
Trout, through 14 games, had generally been hitting right around .300 or higher. His .220 average, coupled with Bryce Harper's torrid start, worried many that he had truly lost his place as the best player in baseball.
Trout laughs at all of you...and small sample sizes.
In exactly 60 plate appearances since bottoming out on April 19, Trout is hitting .407/.467/.833 with an absurd 1.300 OPS, slugging six home runs and driving in 18. This sample, Trout struck out just 16 times.
Guess what, baseball world?
Trout's bad start has basically been washed away by FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement, where he finds himself comfortably among the leaders (as usual).
Trout has a 2.0 fWAR, good for third in the Majors, behind only Manny Machado and Dexter Fowler. (Harper is in 18th with 1.3 fWAR). In fact, if he played in all 162 games, Trout would be on pace for 11.6 fWAR, an easy career high.
We know that won't happen. Trout will go through more tough stretches again this season. But, once again, the lesson here is to not judge a player by small sample sizes.
Let's just let Mike Trout keep playing baseball the way he has always done. And let's let him keep laughing at us.