When the Red Sox drafted JBJ out of the University of South Carolina, he was already rumored to be one of the top defensive outfield prospects in all of baseball.
He made his first Opening Day Roster and his MLB debut in April of 2013 after Ortiz was placed on the DL, to start the year. Since becoming a regular in 2015, JBJ has continued to display Gold Glove defense in center field, including mind-boggling catches this past season.
However, it’s his offense that has continued to be frustrating to watch.
Just last season it seemed that finally, JBJ had figured things out. He hit in 29 consecutive games which tied Johnny Damon for second longest only to Nomar Garciaparra’s 30 game streak in 1997. He was hitting for power, hitting 26 home runs and driving in 87. He was rewarded by making his first career All-Star team.
In 2017, JBJ dealt with both a knee and thumb injuries that required separate stints on the DL. His power numbers decreased, hitting only 17 homers and driving in 63.
JBJ career is following the similar path to former Red Sox centerfielder Fred Lynn. Lynn was drafted out of the University of Southern California in 1973 and quickly rose through the minor league ranks along with teammate Jim Rice. When both arrived in Boston formed the “Gold Dust Twins.”
Lynn outdid his teammate in 1975, becoming the first player ever to win both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the same season.
However like JBJ is dealing with now, Lynn offense never quite caught up with his defense and, in 1981, was traded to the California Angels for a package headlined by left-handed pitcher Frank Tanana, and outfielder Joe Rudi.
Coming into his age 28 season, there is a chance that Dombrowski could dangle JBJ in potential trades especially in a weak free agent outfield market which includes Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gomez, Cameron Maybin and potentially Andrew McCutchen.
JBJ, who has two more controllable years before reaching free agency, could make for an interesting alternative to the players listed above.
I would hope that JBJ is back in a Red Sox uniform in 2018, but with Dombrowski wanting more power and looking at JD Martinez and Giancarlo Stanton to fill that role, I’d be surprised to see JBJ back manning centerfield next season