Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. given “green light” on the basepaths

SEATTLE, WA - JULY 24: Jackie Bradley Jr.
SEATTLE, WA - JULY 24: Jackie Bradley Jr. /

Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. confirmed that new manager Alex Cora has given him the “green light” to steal more bases this year.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. has always been a capable threat on the basepaths. Now the Boston Red Sox plan to set him free to utilize that skill.

WEEI’s Rob Bradford reports that Bradley has been given the “green light” on the basepaths by new manager Alex Cora. Apparently, that wasn’t the case under the reign of John Farrell. In the past, Bradley attempted to steal only when instructed by the coaching staff. This is why he’s never tallied more than 11 attempts in a season despite his elite success rate.

Bradley has stolen 30 bases in 35 career attempts. Only three players since 1951 with a minimum of 80 attempts have a higher stolen base percentage than Bradley’s 85.7%. Bradley doesn’t meet that threshold and it’s reasonable to expect a dip in that percentage over a larger sample. However, it gives us an idea of how valuable Bradley can be on the bases. It’s baffling why his former manager didn’t take advantage of this ability more often.

Now it seems Bradley will have the freedom to use his own judgment. If he feels he can get a good jump on a pitcher then he’ll take off.

The topic of Bradley’s base running came up after he swiped his first bag of the spring on Saturday. This was notable given that he has stolen only one base in spring training over the last four years. Bradley revealed there was a reason why he didn’t run much during exhibition games in the past but he’s altered his approach knowing he’ll be given more opportunities this year.

"“I didn’t want to do too much with tired legs and all that,” Bradley said in reference to the lack of steals in previous springs. “But now it’s all about getting the reps in, get that feeling with certain pitchers. I want to work on it more.”"

Bradley explained that everything he does on the field revolves around repetition and consistency. He has to work on stealing bases during Grapefruit League action in order to prepare himself to be more active on the basepaths once the regular season begins. This deviation in his spring approach shows he’s serious about stealing more bases.

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His career-high of 9 stolen bases came back in 2016. Bradley followed that with 8 steals last year, albeit in 23 fewer games. If Bradley truly has the green light to run then it’s not unreasonable to project him for 20+ steals. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi were among the six American League players to hit 20+ homers and swipe 20+ bases last year. If Bradley’s power returns to 2016 levels then he could give the Red Sox another 20/20 outfielder.

Bradley doesn’t possess the blazing speed that most of the top base running threats have. Is his success rate based on an elite ability to get a great jump on the pitcher or because the coaching staff has limited him to running only in ideal situations?

Next: Red Sox starting pitcher depth

We’ll find out this season now that Bradley has been given the green light. Don’t expect him to run wild. He still needs to pick his spots wisely. The takeaway is that Bradley is excited that his new manager trusts him to pick those spots himself. This should lead to an uptick in steals, putting him in scoring position for when the lineup turns over to the top of the order.