The Boston Red Sox made a bold move when they broke camp with rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. as their starting left fielder. But, really, who can blame them? The 23-year-old batted .419 in 28 spring training games and earned his spot on the 25-man roster.
Unfortunately, Bradley Jr. struggled at the big league level, hitting just .097 in 12 games. He was sent back down to Triple-A Pawtucket in a move that coincided with slugger David Ortiz’ return from injury. At that point in time, fans couldn’t help but wonder how the outfielder would respond to his disappointing first crack at the Majors.
Not to worry… It’s been a very successful transition for Bradley Jr. down in Pawtucket. Boston’s top prospect is batting .302 in 11 minor league games, with a .400 OBP. He’s making consistent contact and has walked seven times.
Currently, Bradley Jr. is sidelined with a minor shoulder injury, and the Red Sox are keeping a close eye on it. The injury, which landed the rookie on the 7-day DL, presents a classic “good news, bad news” situation. The bad news is that Bradley Jr. is the only available outfielder on the 40-man roster that isn’t in Boston—meaning that if the Red Sox suffer an injury to an outfielder, their hands will be tied. The good news, on the other hand, is that Bradley Jr.’s injury makes it official that he will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season. This is due to an absurd rule regarding the extent of his minor league service time in 2013. But, as they say, that’s life.
The thought of the Red Sox losing that final year of player control over Bradley Jr. was unrealistic from the beginning, but at least it’s now official, and that’s all that matters as far as Red Sox fans are concerned.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)