Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jackie Bradley Jr. didn’t have to wait long to introduce himself to Boston Red Sox fans during the 2013 season, earning a place on the team’s Opening Day roster thanks in part to injuries to other players. The 23 year old failed to earn enough at bats during the season to shed his rookie status, however, which may ultimately be a blessing in disguise for the young outfielder. MLB.com wrapped up their Top 10 prospects by position lists on Wednesday, naming Bradley as the sixth best outfield prospect in baseball.
Here’s what they had to say about Bradley:
"Part of two College World Series championship teams at South Carolina, Bradley Jr. earned a World Series ring as a rookie with the Red Sox after surprisingly making their Opening Day roster. A superb center fielder, he’ll be a defensive upgrade over Jacoby Ellsbury, who left via free agency. Bradley Jr. is also an on base machine who likely will be better than Ellsbury in that regard, too."
Boston fans are familiar with Bradley’s potential, but there is also some degree of hesitation in anointing him as a “better than Ellsbury” replacement. Bradley mustered a .189/.280/.337 line across 107 plate appearances last season, including a dismal .080/.207/.120 split against left-handed pitching (albeit in a small sample size of 29 PA). He spent much of the year back down at Triple-A Pawtucket where he’d hit a more enlightening .275/.374/.469 in 374 PA.
Bradley’s not going to develop into a power threat and he won’t steal 30 bases atop the lineup, but he does get on base well. He holds a career on base percentage in the minor leagues of .404. He’s predominantly a singles hitter, who’ll use his speed on the base paths well to take an extra base where he can. Defensively there have been indications that he’ll be a solid option in center field, but he’s yet to truly show the standout talent that spurns comparisons to the man he’s replacing in center field.
With questions lingering about his bat, it would appear that the Red Sox aren’t yet sold on his abilities either given their addition of Grady Sizemore to compete with him for playing time. Bradley’s going to be given every opportunity to succeed, however, and he’s cruised through the team’s minor league system up to this point (made his MLB Debut less than two years after being taken 40th overall in the 2011 Draft).