Ladies and Gentlemen. This is the player the Red Sox were willing to hand the starting center field job to. Obviously, last year didnt quite go as planned, but from here on out, Jackie Bradley is here to stay.
I’ll admit it, I’m about as big of a Daniel Nava fanboy as you can find. We share the same birthday and everything. Naturally, I was absolutely crushed when Nava was optioned to the Pawtucket Red Sox ahead of Shane Victorino‘s activation from the disabled list. But when the choice was between Nava and Bradley there was only one outcome.
Nava scuffled to start the year, and while Bradley hasnt been setting the world on fire, his value to the club is that much greater. No disrespect to Nava, but he’s a haphazard fielder at best, let alone when he’s forced into action in the cavernous right field of Fenway Park. Bradley meanwhile, is a defensive stud, seemingly shrinking the outfield and pushing Grady Sizemore to a corner position.
Alright, he’s only hitting .225 here in the early going. But it makes about as much sense to judge him on that as it does to try to conclude that Boston will be terrible this year because of their record after 25-odd games. When he is hitting though, it’s when it matters, whether its game winning singles or rocketing multiple extra-base hits during a rout.
I know he struck out three times yesterday, and also lined out. But watching him hit is like watching a completely different player than he was at the start of last season. Last year, basically everybody and their brother (with the exception of the Yankees) could hammer the inside corner and Bradley would swing, unable to identify these pitches that, more often than not, weren’t hittable by anyone other than Vladimir Guerrero. Cut to 2014. Bradley has walked in just north of 13 percent of his plate appearances, second only to David Ortiz, who has walked in .3 percent more of his plate appearances than Bradley. It’s not perfect, he has still struck out in around a third of his at bats, but I would think that those numbers will shrink as he gets more exposure.
Jack Keller recently wrote about the Red Sox chances at turning their abysmal defence around. I reckon Jackie Bradley will be a massive part of that. Boston boasts an outfield which is made up of three centerfielders, though Sizemore and Shane Victorino are now relegated to the corner spots in favor of Bradley. We’re talking about two guys with six gold gloves between them. They’ve both been pushed to the outside by a rookie. That’s how good Bradley is.
Okay, sure, Sizemore hasnt been his old self and Victorino is ageing, but it’s still something. Last night, Bradley made a handful of plays, none of which could have been easy, including catching a hard-hit line drive to finish the game, yet some how, he made them look routine.
When he went down to start the year, it had less to do with his talent, and more to do with the fact that Boston thought Nava would be Nava again and that none of Boston’s other outfielders could be sent down without being exposed to waivers. Jackie Bradley is quickly establishing himself as the player that all of Red Sox Nation got excited about when he tore up the minors in 2012 and burst into spring training in 2013.
Everyone knew we would miss Jacoby Ellsbury. Until Jackie Bradley threw him out trying to take third.