Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The imminent returns of Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks have put the Red Sox in a bit of a roster crunch. Today, the Red Sox optioned outfielder Daniel Nava (who hit .303/.385/.445 last season but has struggled early this year) to Triple-A Pawtucket and recalled reliever Alex Wilson. Victorino is expected to return to the majors as soon as tomorrow, and could force Wilson right back to the minor leagues, while Middlebrooks could also be up in Boston by the end of the week and force one of Brock Holt or Jonathan Herrera to Triple-A.
One player somewhat lost in the shuffle is Red Sox’ #2 prospect Jackie Bradley Jr., who was recalled on Opening Day to replace Victorino when he was sent to the disabled list. Bradley has been better at the plate than he was last year (.228/.333/.298 versus .189/.280/.337), but not by too much. Bradley really offers the Red Sox value defensively as he is the only player on the roster that could be reasonably expect to spend time in center field if Grady Sizemore needs a day off.
In fact, Bradley is already a better defensive center fielder than Sizemore and his offense has actually been better so far as well (Sizemore is currently slashing .213/.269/.344). At this point in their respective careers, Sizemore has a higher offensive ceiling than Bradley and the Red Sox should continue to play him until it’s clear that he is no longer a legitimate MLB player.
However, it’s easy to imagine Bradley displacing Sizemore as the regular center fielder within the next few weeks. For the time being, however, he will likely spend time in each of the three outfield positions as well as spending a fair amount of time on the bench. If Bradley can stay hot despite a lack of consistent playing time and Sizemore is unable to turn it around, then there’s no doubt that he’ll be the starting center fielder before long. For now, however, he’ll have to deal with a fourth outfielder/spot starter role for better or for worse.