Four weeks ago, Jackie Bradley Jr. was a piece of sliced bread with bee-knees baked into it. He was rippin’, runnin’, smashin’ and bashin’, and signified hope for the Boston Red Sox after the Red Sox’s historically brutal year highlighted by chicken and beer and some combination of the two called Bobby Valentine.
After a scorching-hot spring training, JBJ got the opportunity to start the season with the Red Sox and sent fantasy owners scrambling to their waiver wires to pick up the next Bryce Harper. But not so much.
Bradley did what every rookie not named Harper or Mike Trout does — he struggled. He batted .097 with a .392 OPS. Pretty much the only way he was getting on base was through walks. He was walking at a high rate, which showed his natural feel for the game and mature plate approach, but was striking out 31 percent of the time and hitting way too many groundballs and for zero power. He was a work in progress, it turns out, so he was sent down. Plus there was that arbitration clock thing that the Sox initially didn’t care about but secretly did.
After weeks of silence and presumed fantasy cuts, Bradley talks are starting to bubble again. Shane Victorino’s mystery back injury has Daniel Nava and butcher Jonny Gomes manning the outfield. Gomes is a platoon guy and I do actually believe he’s made a pact with the devil — the get: mediocre batting ability; the price: all fielding ability. Nava’s okay.
Victorino’s missed the last five games and if he’s forced to miss Thursday’s game — the deadline the Sox set — he’ll be sent to the 15-day DL and, you guessed it, open the door for Bradley. Let’s check if his time in the Show has helped.
With triple-A Pawtucket, Bradley is slashing .278/.381./333. He doesn’t have a homer and is 1-for-2 swiping bases. In 43 PAs, he has two doubles and no triples. He has a 6:11 BB:K ratio, with two of those being intentional.
Bradley’s power is still not there against higher-level pitching, but he’s not striking out as much as he did with the Red Sox. This is an extremely small sample, yes, but when you pair it with his time in the majors, you get a decent idea.
He’s still not ready despite the talks that he might be needed in Boston come Thursday. If he does indeed get pulled up, Bradley will only serve as defensive insurance. Picture him as the complement to Gomes’ butcher-ism. Bradley will be sent back down upon Victorino’s return regardless of his offensive production.
Because of his propensity to walk, mediocre speed and defensive prowess, a lot of baseball analysts think Bradley will result as a better baseball player than fantasy player. If that’s the case, he’ll be extremely valuable in OBP leagues, but unfortunately not in standard 5×5’s.
If you’re in a keeper league and Bradley gets pulled up, you might want to give him a stash — he’ll hit for good average once he’s ready and won’t kill you in any category — but 2013 isn’t the year for Bradley unless two of the Red Sox outfielders go down long-term. Even then, don’t expect much. We’ve learned our lesson already.