The Red Sox invested $8.55 million dollars in their starting center fielder this season. They drafted Jackie Bradley, Jr. in the first round (40th overall) back in 2011. Although JBJ has been one of their better home-grown players, along with Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Barnes, his numbers to start this season should help explain why Boston’s hitting statistics rank in the bottom third of American League teams. Bradley is 9-for-64 this season (.141 batting average). He has struck out 21 times compared to 5 walks and has just 2 extra-base hits. Time has come to officially say goodbye to JBJ.
When we think of Jackie Bradley, Jr., we think of the best defensive center fielder in baseball. Truth be told, Bradley has won just one Gold Glove, which came last year. Bradley has been the regular center fielder for the Sox since 2014, the year after the team won their eighth World Series championship. He took over for Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year/$153 million-dollar contract with the Yankees that offseason.
In the five seasons that Bradley has been manning center, the AL Gold Glove has been awarded to the likes of Adam Jones, Kevin Kiermaier twice, Byron Buxton, and Bradley, respectively. Bradley’s teammate Mookie Betts has won a Gold Glove in right field for three years running.
Bradley’s OPS numbers from 2014-’18 read like this: .531, .832, .835, .726, .717. He has averaged a .239 batting average over that span. His best season as a hitter came in 2016, when he started alongside Betts in the All-Star Game. That year, he posted career highs across the board: 156 games – 94 runs – 149 hits – 26 home runs – 87 RBI – .835 OPS – 271 total bases.
Compared to other top AL center fielders in 2016, Bradley finished second in RBI, third in runs, home runs, and WAR, and fourth in batting average. The following season, in 2017, he sank from third to seventh in runs and batting average. Also, individually speaking, his OPS dropped more than one-hundred points, he hit 9 less home runs, and his WAR dropped from 5.3 to 2.2. Last year, in 2018, Bradley saw his OPS drop again. His .234 batting average was his worst since his rookie year. Some might believe that downward trends like this should have authorized the Red Sox to say goodbye to JBJ some time ago.
Say Goodbye To JBJ: Always been a streaky hitter
A .926 OPS, 14 home runs, and 55 RBI in 2016’s first half are really what earned Bradley an All Star appearance in 2016. However, in the season’s second half, his numbers changed drastically. His OPS fell nearly two-hundred points (.728). He posted just 20 extra base hits after collecting 36 from April-July.
When looking at his overall career, JBJ is a .257 hitter at Fenway Park. His road batting average, however, sits at an ugly .216 clip. When facing right-handed pitchers, his career OPS of .734 warrants an average hitter. Against lefty’s his OPS drops to .664.
At this moment, tough to cut ties
Waiving or trading JBJ right now might not make the most sense, but sitting him more regularly would be smart. Betts has plenty of experience in center field. Benintendi is comfortably the everyday left fielder. Perhaps J.D. Martinez, the team’s DH, would entertain more starts in the outfield. Brock Holt, who is currently on the Injured List, has experience playing the outfield, as well as Steve Pearce.
The Red Sox have a plethora of talented hitters: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, Pearce, Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis. The more manager Alex Cora can get this group in the lineup card, the more runs will cross the plate. With more talent (Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez) due back to the lineup in the impending future, the Red Sox should say goodbye to JBJ.