March 25, 2013; Sarasota, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (74) works out prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

How Good Can We Expect Jackie Bradley Jr. To Be In 2013?

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Jackie Bradley Jr. has been an instant sensation in the Red Sox organization. In his first full season in the minor leagues, he took home the Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year Award after batting .315/.430/.482 between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. In his first major league camp, he has been by far the best hitter on the team and has hit for a remarkable .433/.521/.633 in 60 at bats. Now, it appears all but certain that Bradley is going to be the Opening Day left fielder for the Red Sox due to injuries and his spring performance.

As always when a top prospect makes his debut, there is going to be tons of hype for the 22 year old. Bradley seems very mature and collected for his age and with an easy-going demeanor and a polished approach, it looks like he’s going to be the next great Red Sox player. However, though Bradley has the skills and maturity to become an above average player and a fan favorite, one has to look at the facts and expert opinions before jumping to conclusions.

Bradley is not going to continue to hit over .400; pitchers will figure out the youngster but he ought to be able to recover. One cannot expect him to be an absolute monster who wins multiple MVP’s en route to a Hall of Fame berth. However, it’s entirely reasonable to expect Bradley to be a .300 hitter who adds double-digit home runs and steals while providing excellent defense in his prime.

As a 22 year old (Bradley turns 23 on April 19), Bradley isn’t particularly close to his prime though. He has no experience above Double-A ball, where he didn’t exactly light the world on fire, batting .271/.373/.437. Don’t be fooled by his spring training stats (after all, Darnell McDonald led the Red Sox in hitting last spring), but also don’t be overly negative. Because of his advanced approach at the plate, it seems reasonable to expect Bradley to hit somewhere in the .250-.280 range with a high walk rate and great defense.

If it were up to me, Bradley would spend at least the 11 days in Pawtucket necessary to keep him from becoming a free agent after 2018. However, it appears unlikely that the Red Sox will go by this route, as they’ve all but announced his accomplishment by releasing Ryan Sweeney earlier today. It seems to me that Bradley will be a good player in Boston, and maybe as soon as this year. However, he’s probably not going to be a great player, so hamper your expectations if you expect anything close to the hype which various Boston media centers have been pumping since early March.

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