Jackie Bradley Junior went out this spring and won himself a spot in Boston’s starting lineup. Baseball traditionalists and business analysts lobbied to start him in the minors. They reasoned that the Sox could retain control of him for an additional year if he simply stayed down for at least nine games to start the season. They also said, as they do with many young ballplayers, that rushing him to the bigs ultimately could hurt his development. After all there are only so many Mike Trouts and Bryce Harpers out there.
The more thrill-seeking and fan oriented camps, myself included on this one, said reward him for flat out raking, turning away all competitors and inspiring Red Sox Nation to have more than just hope at the dawn of the 2013 season. Emotion and going with the gut carried the day. At least for now we’re witnessing a rookie who is struggling mightily with that decision.
After an improbable 0-2 opening day against the Yankees in which he walked three times and scored twice Bradley has looked every bit a rookie at the plate. He’s strayed from the plate discipline that allowed him to work his way into hitter’s counts.
Specifically, Bradley has faced a lot of good left handed pitching and since the start of the season has been unable to get a hit in the bigs off a lefty. That’s right. A goose egg.
Bradley appears to be handling it like a big leaguer, again impressing Red Sox management with his maturity. “It’s one of those periods every hitter goes through,” Bradley told MLB.com’s Jason Mastrodonato. Since getting an RBI in each of his first three major league games, Bradley has gone 0-11 with five Ks and two walks. And it’s about to get more interesting.
David Ortiz is due to be activated April 19 and Daniel Nava is mashing it (currently hitting .421, right about what Bradley hit in spring training). If Bradley continues to slump the Red Sox will have to make a decision.
If Bradley does end up going down, the silver lining is that if he goes down for 20 days Boston will be able to reclaim their 2019 player control year that was lost when he was promoted to the starting lineup to start the season.
Manager John Farrell is also seeing what I have been seeing; Bradley is getting jammed down and in. “They’ve probably exploited the inside part of the plate on him a little bit more,” Farrell said of Bradley’s struggles. “The one thing that has shown up a little bit is that in Spring Training or even the first series of the year, early in the count when he swung the bat, he was getting his pitch and he was squaring some pitches up. Now those pitches are being fouled back.”
I still the think the kids has got the goods. At least for now, the goods may not yet be on the top shelf.