The window for error with Jackie Bradley Jr is very small. His glove has been great in the outfield so far in his career, but he’s struck out so much in his career it’s a tough call to say if he’s going to maintain the numbers to stay a starting center fielder.
In 836 plate appearances so far before Friday night’s game he has a K% of 27.8 percent, which is something only most power home run hitters can get away with. This is why in his career his slash line stands at .214/.290/.347. Admittedly his numbers started to improve last season, but not his strikeouts which finished the year at 27.1 percent.
Last year Bradley started to get a bit more selective with a walk rate at a high of 10 percent. That rate is similar to levels he showed in the minors and might be necessary for his continued development to become a more reliable hitter. With the higher walk rate and a large increase in power his slash line was a solid if not spectacular .249/.335/.498 with a UZR rating of 10.1 runs above average.
If Bradley could maintain that level of talent over 500 or more at bats he would be an all star, but that showing was limited to only 255 plate appearances. What we’ve seen to start this season so far has been more of the career numbers and less of the 2015 JBJ so far.
After last night JBJ has a strikeout rate of 23 percent which is actually really good. He’s not walking very much though with only 3 walks on the season. The question is will the power return that we saw developing last year. This far in the year his SLG is only .340 and he’s yet to hit a home run.
The lack of home runs is nothing surprising for Bradley, but only 3 extra base hits in the season as well. The other issue is Bradley has continually been a slow starter as well. If you look at his offense in the first half in his young career he has a wRC+ of 65 and in the second half it is 83. Neither is league average, but he’s been much better after the break than before. (wRC+ is a offensive number that compares a players runs created to league average, so 100 is league average and above is better)
His defense has been great and he is a elite outfielder. Combining all three outfield positions his UZR/150 is 14.2 (UZR/150 averages UZR over 150 games played to show an approximate amount of one season). That is top twenty among all outfielders from 2013 to 2016 with 1500 or more innings of defense.
That level of defense with the offense he put up last year would be worth between 2-3 WAR in a full season and a chance to do more. On the other hand if he performs closer to career averages he’s looking at 1-2 WAR or less and being worthy of replacing.
The Red Sox are going to have some options coming soon that might press Bradley in the outfield for playing time. While Rusney Castillo has not worked out the team will be looking at options like Andre Benintendi and even Yuan Moncada could end up in the outfield at some point during his development.