Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
When the Red Sox made the decision to send Daniel Nava down to Pawtucket on April 23, the move was made due to a combination of Nava’s poor average, his available minor league options and the emergence of Jackie Bradley Jr. But Bradley’s offense has almost completely disappeared, leading to the question of whether or not he should still be in the lineup every night.
Since Nava’s demotion, JBJ is hitting .171 at the bottom of the Sox order, which is not far off from the .149 average Nava was posting at the time of his demotion. The combination of Bradley and Will Middlebrooks in the eight and nine holes has been an almost guaranteed two outs.
The other alarming part of JBJ’s offense has been the number of strikeouts. Now I’m not a firm believer in strikeout rates as a definite negative statistic. But when you’re advertised as a contact hitter and you couple 43 strikeouts with a .205 average, it’s not a good sign. He trails only Mike Napoli in the strikeout department, but Nap’s 46 strikeouts at least come with a .260 average, a .393 OBP and a little bit of pop (five HRs).
Now obviously JBJ’s main draw is his defense; he’s been excellent in center field. He gives the Sox a strong arm at that position they haven’t had in a long time and he tracks down balls in the gap with the best of them. The Sox can’t really afford another hole defensively, as the left side of the infield is already enough of a scare. But how long can a struggling offensive team trade runs on offense for an extra out or two on defense?
A few factors play into JBJ’s favor in this situation. For starters, there aren’t really any better options for the Sox at his position. Grady Sizemore isn’t as strong defensively and his bat hasn’t been all that much better than Bradley’s (.226 average with a slightly lower OBP than Bradley).
Nava of course is an option. But, although improving, his swing is still a little bit off and, more importantly, he’s not a center fielder. He’d just be adding to the corner outfield overcrowding the Sox currently have.
So for now, barring a trade or something completely unexpected, Bradley stays in Boston and tries to find his offense. Not so much because he deserves to, but more because he’s the best option that they have, which isn’t saying much.