Red Sox shouldn’t forget about Jackie Bradley, Jr.

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Heading into the 2014 season, Red Sox fans were still feeling the wonderful effects of a magical World Series run and looking forward to seeing some new blood at Fenway. At the top of the list of the various prospects that Red Sox Nation had been hearing about, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr were creating the most buzz. Then things went horribly wrong.

The Red Sox struggled last season, Xander Bogaerts was pushed aside to make way for Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr. saw his chances on the big league club go by him like a 90 mph fastball on a 3-2 count. In 384 at-bats, JBJ had 76 hits, 31 walks and a batting average of .198 before getting sent back down to Pawtucket. His OBP was a whopping .265 and he looked rather puzzled at the plate despite playing some stellar defense at times in the outfield.

The team as a whole became a drag to watch, but Bradley’s inability to make any kind of contact with Major League pitching was extremely frustrating. By the end of the season, I too was tired of seeing Bradley come up with a chance to right the ship only to fail and kill rallies. But should that really be last we see of the young man from Columbia, SC? Does he deserve a second chance due to his obvious expertise tracking down balls in the field?

One of the bigger stories that all Sox fans and beat writers have followed through Spring Training to the start of the season has been the abundance of outfielders on the big league club. While depth is not necessarily a problem, keeping veteran players happy and balancing out playing time can be for a manager under a good amount of scrutiny the way John Farrell is. That being said, Boston needs to do what is best for the club in terms of trying to rebuild after an off year (to put it mildly).

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I don’t think anyone is claiming that Jackie should be in Boston right now, rather the question is does he have a role on the team going forward? Once the Allen Craig/Shane Victorino/Rusney Castillo quagmire rights itself, will Jackie get back in the mix? That’s up to him after all. He needs to impress with the PawSox, show that he isn’t feeling bad for himself after last year’s debacle and listen to constructive criticism from his managers and coaches after reports surfaced last season that advice was going in one ear and out the other.

Bradley didn’t seem to let anything linger from last season over the course of the spring. He finished off his time in Ft. Myers hitting a mega .378 in 45 at-bats with 17 hits, an RBI, a .462 OBP and slugging .444. He also crossed the plate 10 times. Meanwhile, Shane Victorino, who was given the green light early on in February by Farrell, hit .190 in 42 at-bats with an OBP of .261 and slugging .286. Granted, Victorino is coming off surgery and is getting his legs under him, but it’s funny how Bradley has become an after-thought despite playing rather well.

A couple weeks ago, Gordon Edes discussed how Bradley’s solid play had been overlooked due to attention on someone like Mookie Betts, who has understandably has Sox fans excited, but wasn’t playing quite as well as Bradley at the time. Edes quotes Bradley as saying, “Confidence level has never been an issue for me. Even on my toughest days, my confidence will never waver. Nothing but focus and determination from me. I just have to continue to do what I normally do. Head down and getting at it.” If he sticks to it, you have to like that attitude.

JBJ doesn’t have to tear the cover off the ball by any means, he just needs to maintain some type of consistency at the plate, not be a detriment to the offense by halting scoring opportunities and show off his skills in the outfield. If he does that, his time may come at some point later in the year when Boston needs another body.

On a positive note, Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles has confidence in Jackie and is doing everything in his power to lead him back down Route 95 to Fenway. The Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson quotes Boles on Bradley: “I just want to make sure he doesn’t forget what kind of player he is, what kind of talent. He’s always had success. He has a track record, a history there. He plays Gold Glove defense. The offense is going to come around. We really believe in Jackie Bradley.”

“I just want to make sure he doesn’t forget what kind of player he is, what kind of talent. He’s always had success. He has a track record, a history there. He plays Gold Glove defense. The offense is going to come around. We really believe in Jackie Bradley.”

Boston can be a difficult city to get a second chance in the sports world, however when a young man has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the league, you can’t just give up on him or pass him up. While his value clearly wasn’t at its highest this last offseason, one has to think the Sox would have pursued a trade for Bradley if they were truly done with him. That obviously didn’t happen. Jackie Bradley needs to stay prepared – his time will come…again.

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