It finally clicked for Jackie Bradley Jr. in 2015. Well, at least it did for a month. The success Jackie had put together throughout his journey in the minors left many analyst drooling about his full potential at the major league level. Sadly though, since he broke into the majors in 2013, that full potential has really only shined through once, briefly. During August of last season, Bradley went bonkers; he went ahead and posted numbers that would even make former MVP Dustin Pedroia blush. He hit .345 with five home runs and a .429 OBP while continuing to play great defense in the outfield. Jackie looked like a star throughout this period. It has left a significant impact on everyone’s perception of him since. Throughout the rest of the season though, Jackie went back to struggling as pitchers once again adjusted to his new plate approach. Now baseball fans across the league are left to figure out who Jackie will actually be by the end of next season.
On Tuesday night, Red Sox manager John Farrell joined the WEEI Hot Stove Show, giving some insight towards who will be playing center field come 2016. “I think if you were to just prioritize the defense, Jackie is the best defensive outfielder we have. That’s clear,” he said. “Whether it’s the naked eye, or whether it’s to any kind of measurement you want to put to it, Jackie is the best defender we have. So you could say an alignment would have Jackie in center, Mookie in right and Rusney in left. Who else we add to the outfielder corps to give us some balance coming off the bench remains to be seen. But the one thing that Jackie did, particularly in August, is that he swung the bat like we were hopeful of. It was an outstanding month. And I think the key for Jackie is going to be: Hit enough to be an everyday player, and then here’s an everyday center fielder.”
At the end of last season, the Red Sox experimented with moving Mookie Betts to right field, Jackie Bradley Jr. back to center, and Rusney Castillo to left. The results were pretty great, everyone looked comfortable with their positions and each guy continued to make some highlight caliber plays. Defense is essential for Boston at this point. With a pitching staff that struggled consistently in 2015, limiting hits in any way is going to be huge if they hope to make a deep playoff run.
In all reality, it comes down to whether Jackie Bradley Jr. will be able to stay consistent from spring training on. If he can continue to play spectacular defense out in center, while hitting .250 and getting on base, he’ll be just fine. He doesn’t need to try and replicate the performance he put together this last August. The Red Sox already have the offensive weapons to go out and score plenty of runs, they just need a little help preventing them.
Once again trade rumors have swirled around Jackie this offseason as different teams look to better their defense in the outfield. There has been some speculation that the Red Sox could deal Jackie while his stock is at its highest, but as of right now there doesn’t seem to be anything close.
An outfield that resembled the final product of 2015 would be a blast to watch over the course of a full season. Hopefully Rusney, Jackie, and Mookie continue to make significant strides this early in their careers, because the potential impact they have is huge! Jackie is the one who has the most to prove heading into 2016, and if he has taught us one thing in 2015, it’s the fact that he is willing to work like crazy to earn and create opportunities. After seeing Jackie work like a maniac on his bat last offseason, I have no doubt he’ll do whatever he can to be fully ready for the first day of spring training.