Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Jackie Bradley, Jr.


Now that the 2015 season is in the books, the BoSox Injection staff will hand out their final report cards, grading the performances of each member of the Boston Red Sox roster based on their expectations entering the season.

. Outfielder. . JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. . B

2015 Statistics: .249/.335/.498 10 HR, 43 RBI in 74 games, 1.8 WAR, 0.8 defensive WAR

After a dismal .531 OPS in 2014, Jackie Bradley Jr. (also known as JBJ for short) seemed to be at a career crossroads. The Red Sox had given him every chance to contribute to a 2014 team that wasn’t going anywhere. He had 423 plate appearances in 2014, but he could not put anything together offensively, hitting just one homer in that span. Bradley, Jr.’s defense was among the best in the majors, making a number of highlight-reel catches, but the offensive side was glaringly bad.

In 2015, the team started Bradley Jr. at AAA Pawtucket. Through the games of July 28, Bradley, Jr, had all of ten games of experience at the major league level in two stints, totaling 30 at-bats in which he notched just four hits, including one homer and two RBI. In late July, Bradley, Jr. was given another shot at the big leagues after a solid season at AAA (.305/.382/.472) with nine homers and 30 RBI in 282 at-bats.

If you had asked any Red Sox fan on August 7 what they thought of JBJ, they would have called him a failure. After three trips back and forth from Boston to Pawtucket, he was hitting .118/.254/.176. Here we go again, everyone must have thought. He had been in the big leagues, for maybe his last chance for 10 days, and had done next to nothing. Finally, something clicked with Bradley, Jr. and people started to pay as Bradley, Jr. became a bottom of the order hitting machine.

A single hit on August 7 started one of the hottest streaks ever seen in Boston. In 98 plate appearances from August 7 to September 7, Bradley hit a staggering .422/.469/.889 with 13 doubles, four triples and seven homers and 32 RBI in just 27 games. Raising his season numbers to a surprising .312/.385/.631, Bradley, Jr. seemed to have quieted his critics, and of course everyone hoped this streak would continue. As quickly as it started, Bradley, Jr. went into another tailspin. Though he had the occasional good game, his last 94 plate appearances of the season saw a .134/.247/.263 slash line with four doubles, two homers and seven RBI. Which one is closer to the real Bradley?

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Fortunately for Bradley, Jr. , his hot streak happened just as the Dave Dombrowski era began on the 18th of August. This led to an outfield of Bradley, Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo (The acronym BBC combined their last names into a quick nickname for the combo) for much of the remainder of the season. As the evaluation of the roster for 2016 occurred, the merciful end of the Hanley Ramirez experiment in left field on August 25, opened the door for the dynamic new outfield. BBC excelled in the second half and left the future bright.

Aug 26, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts (50), right fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (25), and right fielder Rusney Castillo (38) celebrate after defeating the Chicago White Sox 2-0 at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Clearly, Bradley, Jr. was the best outfielder on the team, but unlike last season in which he made 90 percent of his starts in center field, the Red Sox experimented with the BBC combo, mixing and matching the trio between the three outfield positions. Considering Betts was converted to the infield to the outfield to make him a center fielder, he played there most of the time with BBC but also saw some starts in right field, as the Red Sox searched for the best combination of the skills of all three players. While Bradley, Jr. started only in center field and right field last season, he also saw 13 starts in left field this season (28 in right field, 25 in center field). There was some thought that perhaps Bradley, Jr. would go to the most difficult outfield position depending on the park. Considering his success in left field in a September series in the spacious left field in Yankee Stadium, this is a possible strategy going forward. With Bradley, Jr.’s 0.8 defensive WAR in a little less than half a season, we can only expect increased production in that area, assuming BBC stays together for next season.

Looking Forward to 2016

Jackie Bradley, Jr. proved that he belongs in the majors this season. No player can reproduce Bradley, Jr.’s incredible month-long hot streak for an entire season. As many batters have shown, a player is susceptible to peaks and valleys in their performance. The bad streaks seemed to snowball on him for weeks at a time, but the defensive wizardry remained a constant source of value to the team. It has always been said about Bradley, Jr. that if he could hit .250, he could be an everyday major league player. He not only did that (well, almost), but did it with some pop, with a .498 slugging percentage that many players would love to have. Considering where Bradley, Jr. was a year ago in terms of his hitting, 2015 has to be considered a success. With the BBC outfield in place, Red Sox fans hope to see Bradley, Jr.’s sparkling outfield defense and occasional hot streaks at the plate for years to come.