A quick look at Drew Bridges’ statistics would yield some serious skepticism when it comes to the chances of a breakout season in 2015. It would appear he hasn’t done much in his career to warrant such a prediction, at least when you examine the stats on the surface. As you will see, a deeper examination of the numbers and an understanding of the tools Drew Bridges possesses may change your mind.
Draft: 20th round in the 2013 draft out of Carthage High School in Missouri
After being drafted, Bridges signed quickly enough to get some time in the GCL as an 18 year old, and he didn’t exactly fly out of the gait as he batted .153/.271/.236/.507 in 22 games with one homerun, one double, and one triple. The only positives you can take from that line is that he got 22 games of experience in his first season as just an 18 year old, and he showed a patient approach.
The overall numbers in 2014 don’t look much better. He hit .222/.329/.402/.731 in 52 games with five homeruns, two triples, and 15 doubles, while striking out 65 times. A deeper look into the stats and a month-by-month breakdown of the stats, however, might just change your mind.
In looking at his splits, a couple of things really jump out. First of all he struggled quite a bit against lefties. This is extremely common amongst young left handers, as they don’t face many lefties growing up. The other thing that jumps out as a major positive is the improvement he saw with each month of the season. His OPS was .540 in June, .662 in July, and .887 in August. That’s a huge improvement and it’s exactly what you want to see from your young prospects. His August stats were really impressive, with a .275/.362/.525/.887 quad slash, three homers, nine doubles, and a triple in 23 games. He definitely strikes out too much so far, but it’s still early in his career to worry too much about that (28.9% K%).
In terms of his attributes, let’s start by talking about his weaknesses. His defense is borderline at best and many feel he won’t stick long term at third base. As we have heard in the past though, defense at the hot corner often comes down to how much work someone is willing to put in. That said, he is a big dude and hard work can only go so far. If he is not done growing or filling out, he could also outgrow the position. He may ultimately end up at first base or a corner outfield position. As is the case with all prospects, he will really have to hit well to make it at one of those positions.
The other weakness in his game is the swing and miss component. He struggles to make contact, although that may be due in part to the extreme patience he shows at the plate. His strikeout percentage actually went up between his first and second season in the GCL. This will be something to watch going forward, as pitchers at higher levels will only expose the holes in his swing more as he goes up the ladder. Of course he will have the opportunity to attempt to patch up those holes as well.
Now that we have the weaknesses out of the way, let’s talk about the positives. Bridges has the kind of power scouts fawn over, as would be expected from a player of his size. He hits the ball with authority to all fields and he has the power to drop bombs. When he got a hold of the ball this year, it traveled… far. His .400+ OPS despite the low average gives you an idea of what he can do when he barrels the ball. He also showed the kind of improvement you like to see from a young ball player, getting better each month throughout the season.
He also demonstrates superior patience at the plate, almost to a fault. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get him to be a bit more aggressive going forward, and that will also help to cut down on the amount of strikeouts. More aggression would likely improve every aspect of his numbers, including his average and his homerun numbers. He has an excellent makeup for a young guy as well, with maturity and hard work being his strong suits. Overall he’s the type of player who has only scratched the surface on his potential, and should improve every facet of his game each year going forward.
Next season he will likely start out in Staten Island, but he could make a push for Charleston if he gets pushes his game along a bit faster than expected. From there he will move as fast as his bat allows him to. He could be able to help the major league team as soon as 2018 if all goes well.
Bridges has a high ceiling, especially if you project his August statistics over a 100-160 game season. He has enough power to be a 40 homerun hitter if he is able to put it all together. There is still a possibility he sticks at third base long term, in which case his bat would play up in a major way. In this day an age where run scoring is at a premium and power is hard to find, he could be of big time value when he is ready. He has the power to man first base, so moving to the other side of the diamond won’t destroy his prospect value at all.
His floor is definitely low, as he is a 20th round draft pick with holes in his swing and some red flags to speak of. He has the potential to bust, and it wouldn’t be shocking if that is how things played out.
Bridges has shown enough positive signs that he could be in for a real breakout season in 2015. The power is coming along and he is getting better with every game he plays. He has shown he can make adjustments and his patient approach is something that the Yankees have always valued. He is one prospect I will be following closely in 2015, and if all goes well we could be talking about him next year as a top 20 talent in the system.