Jackie Bradley (Photo: Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net)

With decisions to be made in center field for the Red Sox (which I wrote about here), an intriguing player to consider in center field is Jackie Bradley. a supplemental first round pick in 2011 out of the University of South Carolina, Bradley has rocketed through the Red Sox minor league system. With the league-wide trend of accelerating the progress of quality prospects, Bradley may be on the fast track to Boston.

While at South Carolina, Bradley was named the MVP of the 2010 College World Series. However, the switch to a new style of aluminum bats and a wrist injury impeded Bradley’s progress as a junior. What was bad for the Gamecocks and Bradley’s draft status was good for the Red Sox, as Bradley dropped to the Red Sox with the 40th selection in the draft. Bradley signed his contract on the August 15 deadline. Bradley played 6 games at low-A Lowell and 4 games at Single A Greenville.

When 2012 rolled around, the Red Sox challenged Bradley with a promotion to high-A Salem. Bradley took on the challenge with gusto, hitting .357/.479/.523, .449 wOBA, 181 wRC. After 67 games, the Red Sox challenged Bradley further with a promotion to AA Portland, where he hit .275/.376/.441, .373 wOBA, 130 wRC. Bradley also stole 23 bases in 2012.

Bradley is an elite (in scouting parlance, plus-plus) defender in center field who takes excellent routes to the ball. He won’t hit many homers but should get plenty of doubles and triples. And Bradley knows how to work a walk to get on base.

It’s almost certain that, at minimum, Bradley will start the year in Pawtucket. However, if the Red Sox trade Jacoby Ellsbury in the offseason, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Bradley in Boston very early in 2013.