Jackie Bradley Jr. had a fantastic Spring Training in 2013 which landed him a spot on the Opening Day roster for the Boston Red Sox, but that didn’t last long. Bradley quickly showed he still needed seasoning as he struggled with the bat and found himself back in the minors by mid-April.
He did make it back up to the big leagues late in the season, but he was left off the playoff roster. With the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury, center field should be Bradley’s to lose in 2014. One thing the Red Sox need to let go of is the concept that Bradley will be a replacement for Ellsbury as they are very different players. Ellsbury gave the appearance of a good defensive center fielder, but in reality he made up for many poor jumps with his unrivaled speed. Bradley is a truly excellent fielder, sometimes making a move on the ball before it is even hit.
Bradley is not a big speed guy. He runs good enough, but he will not steal a whole lot of bags. Instead, his offensive value will come in the form of a very good on-base percentage and a chance of putting up 15-20 home runs. The Red Sox have built in some “insurance” when they signed Grady Sizemore, but he is not somebody to count on given his injury history. Another option many writers and fans have thrown out is the potential for Shane Victorino to play center field. Victorino often looked lost in the massive center field of Fenway Park, so Bradley will likely be given every chance to succeed.
Bradley has the potential of being a solid lead-off hitter in the future, but his biggest asset in 2014 will be his glove. He will likely bat near the back of the order, but his future is bright. He could become a multiple Gold Glove Award winner and very easily make a few All-Star games.