Hello, my name is Kara and I am a Jackie Bradley Jr. apologist.
I’ve been a fan since 2013. I thought he was the next coming of Christ that year as he had his way at Spring Training, the minors, and then the Red Sox. His defensive ability is unparalleled, at times he is a highlight reel machine. Yes, he makes mistakes, but for the most part he gets a great read on the ball off the bat and is the captain of the Red Sox outfield. Perhaps it is fitting that at times he is called JBJesus. Unfortunately, though he is not consistently performing miracles at the plate, when this team needs more run support. This has been the story with Bradley since late 2013. Ownership, managers, and fans tolerated it because of his defensive ability. This season should (and still could) be a flashpoint in his Major League career.
My hesitation about dealing JBJ is that he won’t be there in the outfield catching balls that would otherwise go out of the park, saving Red Sox pitching ERAs from skyrocketing. These batted balls would otherwise go out of the park or get misplayed in the tricky, Fenway centerfield. JBJ ought to earn saves, rather than the bullpen.
Who are the other natural alternatives for centerfield? Andrew Benintendi is second in the depth chart at that position. Can Benintendi play as well in center as he does in left? I do not know. Left field at Fenway is also tough, but very different than center field. The wall is flat, there are no angles, and that diamond in front of the garage door. Benintendi seems comfortable there. He also backs up our third baseman, Rafael Devers, who makes many defensive mistakes. One probably does not want to upset that apple cart.
If traded, I am confident Bradley Jr. will find a home with another team if a worthwhile player shows themselves in coming weeks leading up to the trade deadline. It would be tragic to see him go to another team and then blossom at the plate. We all know, because of his streaks, that he has the capacity to hit well. If I were Alex Cora, I would encourage the hitting coaches to work with him on his form and approach at the plate. There are tweaks to be made, so why not make them, here, with the Boston Red Sox.
Still, others are talking about the possibility of Rusney Castillo’s return to the big leagues. His bat is strong this year. He is slashing .320/.358/.434 in the International league for the Pawtucket Red Sox. In the negative column, he has not played at the major league level since 2016, two seasons ago. YIKES! But desperate times call for desperate measures. While I do not think Castillo is a permanent solution. One way to handle him would be with a two-game trial to see is he will make an impact. In the meantime, Bradley could work on his swing. Is this a bet worth making? They will not know unless they try.
Brock Holt could be a beacon of hope too. Many want him to get to the plate more often. He is versatile enough, but again, does not have that certain je ne sais quoi in the outfield. I will say, I have more confidence in Holt than I do Castillo.
It is scary. to consider, but Bradley’s time with the Red Sox could come to an end in the next few weeks. I sincerely hope it does not because I am such a big fan, Thankfully those decisions are not up to me, for I would be voting with my heart and not my head.