Cleveland Indians: What took Tribe so long to bring up Bobby Bradley?

Cleveland Indians, Bobby Bradley

Bobby Bradley #44 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

What took the Cleveland Indians so long to bring up Bobby Bradley?

On June 5, the Cleveland Indians called up Bobby Bradley giving him his first shot in the major leagues since 2019. While it’s only been four games, Bradley is quickly making up for lost time and showcasing that he not only belongs in Cleveland, but probably should have started the season with the club.

Back in March we talked about the race for first base at Spring Training in Goodyear. At that point, it seemed like Bradley was the clear choice to win the job at first base. Despite that, Jake Bauers exited Goodyear on the Opening Day roster with the spot at first. Now, it’s becoming even more clear that it should have been Bradley starting on day one.

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Now, there’s more that went into the decision than just performance. Bauers didn’t have any options left, so it made sense to give him the first crack at the position. It was easier to send Bradley down and allow Bauers to have his shot. However, with how Bradley has played, he’s more than proving he should have just won the job before the season started.

It’s only been four games for Bradley in Cleveland, but he’s already making his presence known. Over his four games, Bradley has logged at least one hit in three of the four games, including a three-hit performance in his second game.

In addition to being consistent in the hit column, Bradley has also been able to knock a pair of doubles on top of a pair of home runs as well. The icing on the cake for Bradley could be the six RBI so far or maybe it’s the fact that he’s struck out just once while drawing two walks.

While Bradley has been strong in his limited time, what is a bit alarming, if that’s the right word, is how quickly he matched the stats that Bauers put up. In 13 at-bats Bradley was able to accomplish what Bauers was able to do in 100 at-bats. Some quick math verifies that it took Bradley 13% of the time to do nearly the same thing.

We knew that Bauers was struggling. I don’t think anyone could have expected that it was that bad. Technically, Bradley hasn’t fully matched it since he is still one double shy, but that can be overlooked by just the amazing difference between these two players.

When it’s laid out like this, it’s really just confusing how Bauers not only got the job out of Spring Training, but held onto it for so long. The argument could be made that who knew what Bradley was going to do, but his 2019 Triple-A season was impressive and better than any sample Bauers had from any level.

If the hesitation was from Bradley’s 2019 MLB stint, that could be the reason. It was only 49 at-bats, but he was still only able to post a slash line of .178/.245/.356 while logging 20 strikeouts, accounting for over 40% of his at-bats.

While his current stint has been much shorter, Bradley looks improved at the plate. In about 30% of the at-bats, he already has more home runs and more RBI than his 2019 appearance. He’s also only a few off in doubles and walks, plus his one strikeout is much fewer than his 20 and well off that pace as well.

When it comes down to it, odds are the decision to go with Bauers over Bradley out of Spring Training had very little to do with performance. Bradley outplayed Bauers in Goodyear and overall potential also leans to Bradley. The decision to go with Bauers was almost purely a business decision.

Bauers was out of options, so sending him down would have meant probably losing him entirely without seeing what he could at the major league level. Bradley still had options left, plus his prospect status was still there, so service time becomes a factor in the choice to have him start in Columbus.

The hope is that every team makes each decision based off what’s best for the club’s chances of winning, but that’s just not the reality. The positive is that Bradley is in Cleveland now and has brought a huge boost to the lineup in his short time. Hopefully, he can carry that through the rest of the season and provide an answer at first base for the Cleveland Indians.