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This spring training has been great for Boston’s young stud of a center fielder, Jackie Bradley, Jr. He boasts a .571 average and an OPS of 1.269 in 15 plate appearances. It may be a small sample size, but he has scored four times in five game and will be a great leadoff hitter with his ability to run the bases and get on base in general. The Red Sox could use a guy like him in the lineup every day.
However, John Farrell has not decided whether or not the 22-year-old has the opportunity to make the major league roster come Opening Day. Back on February 26, the manager said this to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe about the speedy outfielder making the major league roster:
“The best way to answer it, we didn’t have that as a strong possibility, and we’re four games into the game schedule. He would be served well to get at-bats in the minor leagues before he comes up, but again he’s making a strong impression in camp. It’s going to be about how he fares against quality pitching as we go through camp. You’re finding out about the person from a maturity viewpoint. Is he going to handle adversity? We have to weigh all of those things.”
Farrell also added, “Every time he’s stepped on the field, he’s done something very positive. He’s sound fundamentally, takes great routes to balls, and hits both lefthanded and righthanded pitching. For a young player in camp, he’s done a great job.”
Farrell, along with many of the other coaches, have had high praise for Bradley since he got to camp. He works hard, runs out balls and gets his job done. He is a team’s dream player in center field.
That all being said, Bradley would benefit more as a full-time player down in the minors than he would as a fourth outfielder in the majors. If one of the regulars gets hurt for a long period of time, then he could be called up to take that spot, but why sit him on the bench, take away his at-bats, and delay his development?
The Virginia native is one of the most valued prospects in the Sox farm system and he should stay there until the rosters expand in September so he can get his feet wet and play every day. It is unfair to him and the other outfielders on this team to bring him up just to tease Red Sox fans with his abilities every now and again.
The Ryan Sweeneys and Daniel Navas of the world deserve a chance to make this team due to their veteran presence in the locker room and lack of options to return to the minor leagues. Sweeney and Nava are perfect for the fourth spot patrolling the outfield grass, not a prospect waiting in the wings to take over for a free agent like Jacoby Ellsbury at the end of the year.
Simply put, Bradley is too important to the Red Sox to underutilize in a role of the bench this year and damage his potential as a long-term franchise centerpiece starting as soon as 2014.