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Saturday, 30 March 2013 20:00

Red Sox Expectations: Jackie Bradley Jr.

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[caption id="attachment_59493" align="alignnone" width="620"]Jackie Bradley Jr. has turned some heads during Spring Training. What could he do for the Major League roster? Jackie Bradley Jr. has turned some heads during Spring Training. What could he do for the Major League roster?[/caption]   The Red Sox are a fortunate team right now. They have a confident group of starting pitchers and what they feel is a solid roster overall. That roster is expected to get another talented player added to it very soon. It has been all but announced that Jackie Bradley Jr. is going to make the Red Sox team out of Spring Training. He is an interesting player because of his plate discipline and quickness. Some of the staples of great Red Sox teams in the past are those attributes. It is key to be able to get on base by any means necessary and then move around the bases. Bradley Jr. can do those things. The 22 year old outfielder may be a boost to the team.   A serious question about Bradley Jr. has to be asked. Can he be effective at the Major League level? He hasn't advanced past Double-A in his young career, but will be making the jump straight past it and Triple-A in order to play for the Red Sox. I like the move. There isn't much risk. Will Middlebrooks did not spend very much time in Triple-A before coming up to play with Boston last season. He is poised to be the starting third baseman on a full time basis. The difference, aside from position, is that Bradley Jr. will have a lot of other outfielders to compete with. Middlebrooks doesn't have to compete with anyone else. He just has to focus on the game. Bradley Jr. will be working along with Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonny Gomes. There may be a chance that he can beat Gomes for a more advanced role but I don't see him surpassing Victorino or Ellsbury.   There will be all sorts of discussions about whether Bradley Jr. should come up. Many discussions have already been started. He is a motivated young man. I see no reason why giving him a chance is a bad thing. Competition at all levels is a good thing. The starting pitchers should look to best each other while be encouraging. Relief pitchers should make it their personal mission to keep runs off the board and help each other scout hitters. Outfielders should be maintaining focus in the field and giving out signals through the game. The catchers, as most know, are the captains on the field. They have to see everything. They read and react, like quarterbacks. Constant communication must go on in the infield. It's all competition. It's all team. Bradley Jr. has an opportunity to show that youth doesn't mean a thing. If he can play, he can play. If he can play, he should play. Simple as that.   John Farrell has been a manager that likes speed, aggressive hitters and fielders. Two out of three should be enough right now for him. During this Spring Training, Bradley Jr. has 2 home runs and 12 runs batted in. Those are certainly good number. Along with the home runs and runs batted in, he also has a .433 batting average. He was given some opportunities to play both left field and center field and showed some very capable defense. He has a chance to make something of the impression he has left on organization. I have a feeling that being given a more important professional role will only be good for him. Some players do not last a full season in the Major Leagues. Many get sent down to work on areas of their game. That very well may happen in this case. Time will tell.   I won't be surprised if Bradley Jr. takes off and never looks back. He could be a very valuable addition to the club based on recent injury history alone. Jacoby Ellsbury hasn't been the picture of health the last few seasons, and Bradley Jr. gives them an option for center field or left field if a replacement is needed. Shane Victorino is the more clear replacement but having someone else to go to is a luxury the Red Sox should gladly welcome. I feel that after last years disappointing season, there is room for rebuilding. If a younger core can sprout up around some veteran stars, there may be a shorter trip back to the playoffs. Considering the Red Sox haven't been back to the dance in three seasons, there shouldn't much that they won't try in order to make the post season.  As far as individual predictions go, it isn't easy to be accurate. That goes for rookies especially. I don't mind going out on a limb though. I will say that Bradley's vision at the plate will give him as many or more walks as strikeouts. He did that in the minors and I feel he will continue doing so. If he wants to stick he will need to be able to do little things right. The front office and coaching staff will want to see a professional approach. They will be watching him carefully. Getting on base is a part of winning. If the team is winning and he's getting on base then there is a reason for him to stick around. I don't see Bradley Jr. powering up much. He will develop that eventually. His speed and contact hitting should be enough right now. I anticipate him hitting somewhere between 5 to 10 home runs. Driving in runs and scoring runs are essential to winning as well as getting on base. After all, you don't get on base just to stand there. Bradley Jr. can probably be counted on to drive in between 25 to 50 runs. With the lineup the Red sox will be putting out every night Bradley Jr. will be lost in the shuffle. He can take advantage of that.  I'm sure Red Sox fans will be wishing Jackie Bradley Jr. plenty of luck this season no matter what. I know that I will be looking for him to capitalize on his opportunities from the start. Get ready to watch him and all the other new faces for this year's Red Sox team take the field on April 1st. Play ball!