Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr sent a message with perfect day at the plate

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Jackie Bradley Jr. #19 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during team photo day on February 19, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Jackie Bradley Jr. #19 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during team photo day on February 19, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr was in the center of trade talks this winter, but he’s sending everyone a message with his play this spring.

This has been one rollercoaster of a spring training so far for the Red Sox. We’ve had injuries, babies, trades, awful pitching, and great hitting. It really has been a little bit of everything in Fort Myers up to this point. As far as the great hitting is concerned, look no further than Jackie Bradley Jr.

Boston’s centerfielder has been nothing but automatic at the dish during the preseason and he’s doesn’t appear to be slowing down. JBJ isn’t known for his offensive prowess but for his dynamic defensive play in the centerfield. That’s why his explosive start to spring training is something to talk about.

Before we can really get to what he’s doing at the plate right now we have to go back through the winter and see his progression. Jackie is a guy who for better or worse has been on the trading block for the better part of his time in Boston. It feels like the Red Sox have dangled him in front of the rest of the league almost every season.

This past offseason was no different as his name was swirled in the trade rumors from the moment the World Series ended. It’s gotten to the point that at Red Sox Winter Weekend he even joked about the fact that he’s “been traded 9 or 10 times.” Even with all of that drama, he comes to the park every day ready to give everything he has for Red Sox Nation.

Another big aspect of the 2020 season for Jackie is that it’s his walk year. When the dust settles on this season he’ll be a free agent and can go wherever he pleases. Considering Boston has stockpiled their outfield with reserves I think it may be in the tea leaves that they won’t make a pass at the Gold Glove winner.

I could always be wrong but with his higher salary, $11M, and often cold trips to the plate, his time is passing through the Boston hour-glass.

So, with this year essentially being an audition for the rest of the league, I’m expecting Bradley to be an absolute force. If spring training is any indication of what we can expect from the outfielder, I think we are in for one hell of a show. There’s been a level of confidence at the plate so far this spring that I can’t really recall ever seeing from JBJ.

Let’s take a look at the numbers so far and really try to appreciate what this man is doing right now. With yesterday’s loss to the Tigers in the books, his slash is up to .412/.474/.824/1.297 with a pair of homers and three RBI. This dude is out here looking like Ted Williams at the dish and I’m pretty damn excited to see if he can keep the pace going.

The best part of yesterday’s game was the fact that Jackie was perfect at the plate, going 3-3 with an RBI and a pair of runs. Though Boston lost, it wasn’t due to a lack of effort from their centerfielder. In fact, he and J.D. Martinez were the reasons the Red Sox were even in that game after Jeffrey Springs spotted Detroit five runs in the first inning.

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I haven’t always been the nicest to Jackie, especially when his offense is in the tank, but I can’t deny what this guy is doing right now. I’ve always been a fan of his defensive abilities and they’ve been the reason I’ve wanted Boston to keep him, but seeing the full package is eye-opening. I don’t know where this confidence is coming from but I’m loving it.

Maybe he sees a chance to step-up with Mookie Betts out of the picture, maybe it’s the allure of becoming a free agent. Who knows? It could be a little of Column A and a little of Column B. We’ve seen it time and time again when a player is in their contract year their numbers shoot through the roof, and this could be a similar case.

To put things into perspective, this is JBJ’s hottest spring training since the 2013 season where he went .419/.507/.6.13/1.120 with a pair of dingers and 12 RBI. With the pace he’s on now he could easily eclipse those numbers and set a new personal best. Even if he keeps just a portion of this surge going through spring and into the regular season it’ll be a welcomed addition to the stat sheet for the Red Sox.

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This will be a massive year in the career of Jackie Bradley Jr and his hopes for a good contract going forward. His defensive skills have never been in doubt but his work at the plate is another story. If he can put together a strong campaign that seems him excel in both areas then it’ll be hard to deny him a good deal. I don’t know if this will be his final season in a Red Sox uniform, but if it is, I hope he puts on one hell of a performance.