It’s tough to look back to spring training of last season when Jackie Bradley Jr., the Red Sox #2 prospect at the time, was tearing the cover off the ball in his first Major League camp. This, coming after a season in which he slashed .315/.430/.482 between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, suggested that Bradley was in for a promising career. Two seasons later, however, Bradley has been unable to deliver on that promise and, as of yesterday, has hit one more roadblock.
As my colleague Sean Sylver covered yesterday, the Red Sox demoted Bradley to Triple-A Pawtucket and recalled top prospect Mookie Betts. While Bradley has struggled this season and the Red Sox do need to get a read on Betts, it’s worth wondering whether this is the best move for either the present or future of Bradley’s career.
Bradley has had a terrible 2014 season offensively, slashing a meager .216/.288/.290, but he has already shown that he can dominate Triple-A pitchers. In 80 games with the PawSox last season, he hit .275/.374/.469, showcasing both plate discipline and power that he has never displayed in the Major Leagues. And while a couple weeks in Pawtucket could give Bradley a break from the rigors of Major League Baseball and help him regain some confidence, it’s unlikely that he’ll actually learn or make any significant adjustments down in Triple-A.
After all, he has been so successful there in the past and that success never translated to the Majors. The only way that Bradley is going to learn to hitting Major League pitching– and there is certainly still time for the 24 year old– is by playing every day in Boston. He needs to acclimate to the Major League lifestyle and get into a routine both on and off the field in order to correct his performance at the plate. And he simply can’t do that when he’s playing in front of 10,000 people in Pawtucket.
The Red Sox do need to get a look at Mookie Betts, who is likely a big part of the team’s future plans, and perhaps that is the primary motive for this move. However, getting Betts some Major League experience shouldn’t come at the expense of Bradley’s development.