In 2013, when the Sox last clinched a World Series banner to add to the prolificacy of Title Town, U.S.A., Jackie Bradley Jr. played a small, if not meager role: 97 at bats, 31 strikeouts, 10 walks and 10 batted in.
In 2014, he was handed the center field position after feel-good story Grady Sizemore hit .216 over 52 games. Bradley responded by showing more of the same, producing a deplorable .266 slugging percentage, managing one home run over 423 plate appearances. Yeah, you read that right. One.
In 2015, limited by injuries, JBJ mustered an OPS north of .830, despite a .249 batting average. The center fielder was on pace for a 20 HR 80 RBI season, had he managed to stay on the field; which he did the following year. Thus, managing his first and only All-Star nod.
And now, the Red Sox brass has given up (to a certain extent) on the Virginia native, finally placing him on the trading block in search of an offensive upgrade. Which, should not be a surprise, given that the team’s corner outfielders are adept at patrolling center field, and will in turn open up a spot for a LF/RF slugger.
There have already been defenders of Bradley Jr., stating their cases that he’s a valuable commodity, his defense is irreplaceable, and it’s just a matter of time before he breaks out. Well, that may all be true one day, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Save for a singular month out of each season, Jackie is a terrible hitter. According to bb-ref.com, he’s comparable to the likes of uber-bust Travis Snider, pitcher turned mediocre hitter Rick Ankiel, and career fourth outfielder Damon Buford.
Jackie, unfortunately a Scott Boras client, has an elite arm and plays highlight reel defense, but can’t even crack a nomination for a Gold Glove award, let alone win one. Why? Well, he’s just not the dynamite center fielder we think he is. Listed below are the Gold Glove nominees of 2017 (with stone face Brett Gardner thrown in for good measure) and the number of runs they save per season, on average, thanks to a bit of sabermetrical research:
Brett Gardner, 15.
Byron Buxton, 16.
Kevin Pillar, 17.
Kevin Keirmaier, 33.
Bradley? He has 10. Which isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. You’d expect your center fielder to save you a run every 15 games or so, right?
So not only is the incumbent center fielder a career .239 hitter that walks only once per every three strikeouts, but maybe we’ve overrated his dominance of center field throughout the years. Even Chris Young has shown a more impressive range factor (2.50) throughout his career, and this is a guy that’s not even particularly known for his defensive prowess.
What the Red Sox have in center field right now isn’t cutting the mustard, and if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s hard to say he makes the team better. His childish photo op with fan favorite Dennis Eckersley a couple of years ago has only influenced the thought that his personality isn’t one that’s improving the clubhouse dynamic. He can’t be trusted to hit outside of the nine hole, and averages himself only 120 games per season, and that’s discounting his first year in the bigs where he appeared in 37 games.
I get it, he has a cannon arm. But that one skill can only carry you so far in the game today. When I look around baseball, I see phenomenal talents that can be had in Boston for some money, and/or a few prospects. Marcel Ozuna put up Manny Ramirez type numbers last season, and is available. If Jeter wants to continue his fire sale, and can be coerced into dealing with the long time rival Sox, I’d flip Bradley and the necessary prospects to Miami in a heartbeat.
If it sounds like I’m bashing Jackie, I really don’t mean to. But the more I look into the former first round supplemental pick, the less I want him in the Sox outfield in 2018 and beyond. Hopefully he can find sustainable success somewhere, but if it’s not in our city, I’m perfectly fine by that.