Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor

Photo credit: Kelly O’Connor

In case you forgot, Jackie Bradley Jr. is still occupying a spot on the Red Sox 25-man roster. Since being recalled from triple-A Pawtucket on May 10th, the center fielder has appeared in 6 games, and has spent the bulk of his 2 week stay on the bench. Still at the relatively young age of 25, it is too early for Boston to proclaim that Bradley Jr. is just a defensive replacement. But whether the front office views the him as trade bait or a team asset, riding the bench is no way to prove his worth in the league.

Bradley Jr’s recall to the majors came after the team elected to demote struggling veterans Allen Craig and Robbie Ross to triple-A Pawtucket. At the time, the former top prospect was batting .343 with 9 doubles and a home run.

To John Farrell’s credit, he never promised that Bradley Jr. would be anything more than a reserve player for the time being. Instead, the Red Sox manager stated that the team needed another position player with Craig demoted and Rusney Castillo still accumulating minor league at-bats. Subsequently, the plan for Bradley Jr. was to work him into right field when the Red Sox were facing a right-handed pitcher. While Farrell was careful to not call Bradley Jr’s situation a platoon role with Shane Victorino, the goal seemed to be to use him a little more than your average bench player.

Of course, Bradley Jr.’s recent 0-for-11 hitless streak does not scream for more playing time, and Shane Victorino’s hot start since returning from the DL has given Boston a much needed shot in the arm in right field. And while 13 total plate appearances for Bradley Jr. is a small sample size, I think we can all agree that both Brock Holt and Daniel Nava are above Bradley Jr. both on the depth chart and in Farrell’s heart. That’s not even to mention the impending arrival of Castillo, who could realistically overthrow Victorino for the every day right field job.

By my count, there are 4 players on Boston’s depth chart above Bradley Jr. in right field; two of which are primarily left handed. Thus, there is really no purpose in keeping Bradley Jr. on the 25-man roster other than late inning defensive replacement. And, while that may be a tantalizing option, especially with Hanley Ramirez in left field in late game situations, it disallows Bradley Jr. to build up any value. While it’s true that he may never get his value back up to the level it was before, there is still reason to believe in a 25-year old player with a .296/.394/.457 career minor league slash. Of course, it is hard to look past his 2014 season, in which he barley hit his weight in over 400 plate appearances, but when you consider that Bradley Jr. was one of two rookies that were so heavily relied on, it is easy to give him a mulligan.

The best thing for Bradley Jr. right now is to assume his spot on the Paw Sox roster, and continue to polish his offensive approach. Only time will tell if Boston ends up using him for their own need or if they package him in a trade down the line. But whatever the plan is for the outfielder, riding the bench will not help. Instead, consistent playing time is the ticket to an effective Jackie Bradley Jr., whether in Boston or elsewhere.

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