On the same day that the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup for the second year in a row, Vidal Bruján flashed his potential for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Making his major league debut on July 7, Bruján endeared himself to the Tropicana Field crowd with an RBI single in his first at-bat, and a stolen base and run scored in the same inning.
Bruján had arrived. Or did he?
13 days, eight games and 16 at-bats later, Bruján is still searching for major league hit number two. An overall line of .059AVG/.059OBP/.059SLG accompanies him.
Now, not every prospect lights the league on fire right away. Look no further than 20-year-old teammate Wander Franco, who came into the big leagues as baseball’s number one prospect. While the switch hitting Franco has shown signs as a right-handed hitter with a .324AVG and three homers, he is slashing just .125 with 15K’s against righties for an overall line of .216AVG/.275OBP/.392SLG.
For Bruján, the slump has carried with him since he cooled off from a torrid start with the Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls. After hitting .338 with seven homers in his first 16 games for Durham, Bruján hit just two more long balls in his next 141 plate appearances over 33 games, hitting .218 during that stretch.
Simply put, it’s perhaps the worst stretch of Bruján’s career since we was signed in 2014 for just $15K out of the Dominican Republic. But it’s no time to worry for MLB.com’s number 36 ranked prospect.
Bruján will get more opportunities to prove himself, especially with his versatility, which has already shown through in manager Kevin Cash’s squad. Bruján has already seen time at second base and every outfield spot, a trait that is a necessity under Cash.
And with Manuel Margot and Mike Brosseau on the injured list and the slumping Randy Arozarena (.139AVG in July), Bruján figures to be here to stay for the time being. But what needs to change?
Look no further than Bruján’s ground ball rate (GB%). Bruján has hit the ball on the ground at a 63.6 percent rate, well above the MLB average in 2020 which was just above 37 percent. That and a clear adjustment to the speed and quality of major league pitching, and the slow start begins to make sense.
Bruján meanwhile, has shown a capability to adjust quickly in every step and should find himself playing a pivotal role for the 55-39 Rays, who sit just 1.5 games back of the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East.