Truth be told, I was going to write a “Prospects on the Verge” report on the Boston Red Sox’ young outfielder, Jackie Bradley, Jr., over the offseason but it got lost in the shuffle of other things to write. Last night, I was impressed enough by what I saw from the 24 year old to revisit what I was going to write.
I was at the Rogers Centre last night to see the Blue Jays and the Red Sox play and not only was Jackie Bradley a machine at the plate (3/4 with two doubles, a triple and a walk) but he made a few excellent defensive plays in center field (one of which had a subtlety to its difficulty that made me want to write something about him).
Bradley is well known by Red Sox fans as the supplemental round pick (40th overall) out of the University of South Carolina in the 2011 draft. Bradley moved through the system quickly, reaching Double-A (and putting up very solid numbers) in just his first full season in 2012. In 2013, some thought that he would be the Opening Day left fielder for the Red Sox but a slow start to the season (.097/.263/.129) had him sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket. He ended up on a Boston-to-Pawtucket shuttle for the remainder of the season, hitting .189/.280/.337 in Boston and .275/.374/.469 in Pawtucket.
So far in 2014, he’s posting much improved numbers at the big league level, with a .239/.354/.358 slash line. While his contact numbers are a little low, his excellent eye (apparent even in his first big league action) still gets him on base at a level that is well above the league average.
Last night, in Toronto, I saw another aspect of his game in person that kind of blew me away. Playing noticeably very shallow against Dioner Navarro, I watched as Bradley raced to the warning track to track down a ball that I thought was going to be a sure double for the portly catcher. Bradley’s speed and ability to read the play was extremely impressive.
His hitting was impressive too. Two of his hits came against soft-tossing Mark Buehrle who, admittedly was not on his game last night. That said, Bradley, a left-handed hitter, has had a lot of trouble with lefties so far in his major league career (.137/.254/.235 including last night) and perhaps a harder throwing lefty might give him more trouble in the future.
Bradley is definitely an exciting young player to keep an eye on as he continues his first full season in the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox.