For anybody who’s read my comments from other posts regarding this issue, you definitely know where I stand. To those of you who haven’t: I was opposed to having Jackie Bradley Jr.break camp with the big club.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very impressed with how Bradley has played this spring and he’s played well to justify this promotion. Being an Omaha, Nebraska native, I had the privilege of watching Bradley play in the College World Series. As a sophomore, he was a catalyst in the University of South Carolina’s 2010 national championship (the first of two in a row). The Red Sox pulled off quite the heist in the 2011 draft. Bradley had a subpar 2011 season due to a lingering wrist injury. Had it not been for that injury, chances are the Red Sox wouldn’t have even been able to get Bradley with their top overall pick (19th overall which they used on RHP Matt Barnes). Instead they were able to burn the 19th, 26th (catcher Blake Swihart), and 36th (LHP Henry Owens) before taking Bradley with the 40th overall pick.
Bradley recovered nicely from the wrist injury and started to climb the ladder quickly in 2012, ending the season with Double A Portland. This spring, Bradley has had the best numbers out of all the players in camp. He definitely is the best overall option to pencil in the lineup with David Ortiz recovers from a wrist injury (not to mention we don’t know if Jose Iglesias will finally start to hit with Stephen Drew out).
However, I still feel it would’ve been for the best to start Bradley out with Triple A Pawtucket. Spring training stats are probably not the best way to decided if a guy is ready for The Show or not (though John Farrell keeps saying there were other intangibles he sees in the kid to go with those numbers). This will also start his club control clock. Had the Sox waited until the tenth game of the season they would’ve guaranteed themselves control of Bradley’s services for 2019, Bradley’s age 29 season.
Not unlike Jacoby Ellsbury, Jackie Bradley is also represented by Scott Boras. Boras clients tend to bleed out the arbitration years and hit the open market after the club control expires. For most players, the age 29 season is a middle of his prime season. If the Red Sox fail to keep Bradley off the 25 man roster for less than 172 days, Bradley will hit the market after 2018. The Red Sox would then either do A. Lose him to another club or B. Risk signing him to a deal fit for a Boras client. Have a feeling scenario B could bring back Carl Crawford deja vu.
Of course, there is still hope. The Red Sox could option Bradley to Pawtucket for a few weeks once Ortiz returns. That would keep 2019 intact. But I fear two things might happen: 1. If Bradley really struggles out of the gate, could it do serious damage to his psyche (he seems to have a demeanor that would prevent that but still…) 2. If Bradley does indeed to well and prove himself major league-ready, how do you explain why you’re demoting the kid? It just seems that the Red Sox could’ve avoided a potential controversy by just simply outrighting Bradley for two weeks and have Ryan Sweeney play placeholder in the meantime.
There also have been a few Boras clients who were exceptions to the rule (Jared Weaver to name one) who opted to sign an extension. If Bradley truly loves being in Boston, maybe he’ll do the same. As a fan, I hope he plays well enough so the club will actually want to extend him. In his prime, I see a 20/20 ceiling with a very good average and awesome OBP. Will also hit a good share of doubles and triples and play gold glove defense. For 2013: A potential ROY candidate. .270-.275 average, .345 OBP, 5-10 homers. At some point, maybe John Farrell will decide to have the stronger-armed and rangier Bradley swap spots with Jacoby Ellsbury as well. We shall see…
Here’s my 2012 predictions:
1. Blue Jays
2. *Red Sox
This division could be a dogfight all season long. On paper, Toronto is the favorite. Just comes down to how all these big name acquisitions gel. The Red Sox will be much improved with better pitching and team chemistry. If the Jays don’t gel, look for the Sox to steal the division. Otherwise I do have them winning a wild card. Tampa’s pitching staff was depleted somewhat and I still think Wil Meyers benefited from the hitter-friendly PCL. Baltimore didn’t do much to upgrade this winter and it’s doubtful they go 29-9 in one run games again. But they still do have an emerging young core. Can’t say that about New York. Another year older and not much depth.
3. White Sox
KC will be the runner up in a division Detroit should run away with. The ChiSox have talent and could give KC a fit for second place. The Indians made some nice additions with Michael Bourne and Nick Swisher. The former a solid leadoff guy and the latter’s a reliable power/OBP guy, but not a middle of the order threat. Still didn’t do enough on the pitching front. The Twins are still in rebuilding mode.
The Halos look very, very good. Two former MVPs in Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols are backing up budding young stars in Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. The rotation is solid, but not great. Still should be enough to fend off the Rangers who were gutted but are still a very talented club. Still don’t know how the A’s made the playoffs last year. Seattle should be better. All four of these teams get to beat up on the Astros a good 18 times each. That should help the old winning percentage.
*-denotes Wild Card