Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So Who is Jackie Bradley Jr.?

Fort Myers has been buzzing this spring, and for the first time in a calendar year, most of the news is positive.

The Boston Red Sox have a new manager and a lot of new faces around the clubhouse.  As with any Boston sports season, there are going to be pessimists -- 'why are we keeping David Ortiz around,' and 'well, we won't be able to beat the Blue Jays anyway!' -- who keep reliving the same 69-93 season of yesteryear.  But what about the optimists, what are they focusing on?  Is it the sub-2.50 ERA the starting rotation has combined for this season?  Is it that the team has a strong leader like John Farrell to get Boston back in the playoffs?

Or is it "uber-prospect" Jackie Bradley, Jr.?

In 19 games this spring, Bradley has posted a .439 average with a 1.110 OPS.  He is a versatile 22-year-old outfielder who was drafted 40th overall by the Sox in 2011 out of the University of South Carolina.  In 2010, he was named the College Baseball World Series Most Outstanding Player while averaging nearly an RBI per game during the regular season and going 10-for-29 in the postseason.

Last season, while splitting time between Single-A Salem and Triple-A Pawtucket, Bradley hit .315 with 55 extra-base hits, 87 walks, and 63 RBIs in 128 games.  He was named the Defensive Player of the Year by the Red Sox organization, and currently ranked number 32 of's Top 100 Prospects.

So why has his name come up so much recently?  Well, aside from him tearing up the Grapefruit League, Bradley's call-up situation is tricky.  As it stands, he is not on the 40-man roster for Boston, and if he were to play this season in Boston, it would affect his arbitration eligibility and free agency status down the road.  I don't want to just invite myself to the pessimist party, but I feel like people are counting this chicken before it hatches.

The idea has been kicked around that with Ortiz on the disabled list, the team could move Jonny Gomes to the DH position and call up Bradley to play left field in Boston.  Bradley is a young player who has shown a streak of brilliance, so why not ride the wave now and see if he can add a bang to this team and the fan base to start the season?

There is no doubt that Bradley is a great player, and seems to have a great attitude, so the safest bet would be to call him up now, let him learn from guys like Ellsbury, Gomes and Shane Victorino (not to mention Farrell), and if he plays too well to afford to send him down, well, that's a problem the Red Sox would love to have.

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