Sep 24, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (25) hits a single during the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
"I don’t feel any pressure. I’m not replacing Jacoby. I’m just going to be myself, enjoy it and have fun."
The quote above is from Jackie Bradley Jr. on his assignment as the new center fielder for the Boston Red Sox. Bradley had an impressive spring training in 2013 and that catapulted him into the starting lineup for 2013. However, inexperience and the nasty ability of major league pitchers to discover a weakness soon sent Bradley back to Pawtucket. Now the job is his. Bradley will either rise to the occasion or sink and ultimately be replaced.
Ellsbury, a dynamic game changer, signed with a certain team in New York for 153M. Ellsbury had a checkered career in Boston with talented displays interrupted by extended stays on the disable list – usually the end result of his aggressive play. Now Bradley will replace him. Comparison is inevitable.
I’m sure the quote by Bradley is for public consumption and, just maybe, to minimize any comparisons with Ellsbury for his own internal reasoning. It will not work. Their immediate career is intertwined. The comparison will happen all season and probably beyond. Averages with the bat will be compared as will extra base hits, steals, OBP, fielding and just about any other stat that can be analyzed. This is exactly what happens when one player replaces another.
The Red Sox have demonstrated public confidence in Bradley, but then brought in Grady Sizemore – just in case. Hedging their bet? Ellsbury was, according to some sources, offered a reasonable contract but not in the stratospheric territory that eventually had him commit to New York for seven years. Bradley will be their guy. A top-rated prospect who, thanks to 2013, has some question marks.
Bradley is just too good a prospect to fail. Just my own humble opinion. Bradley has a good sense of plate discipline – and that is a key ingredient for any hitter. Bradley certainly can carry the glove with the same respect as Ellsbury – probably even more so– thanks to a better arm. That is one big plus as Bradley ventures forward in 2014.
Ellsbury has long been a personal favorite of mine. A rare player in Boston who could change a game with his speed. Ellsbury demonstrated the same approach to the defensive side as long ago Pete Reiser did – a career cut short thanks to an adventurous style. And maybe even Fred Lynn who would attempt to corral any ball and the results were often a DL visit. But now it is Bradley time in Boston. I will certainly follow both players and make the inevitable comparisons and hope it is as interesting and debatable as Dustin Pedroia versus Robinson Cano.