When spring training began, Red Sox prospect outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was considered a pretty solid lock to begin the season in the minors. However, after a strong showing this spring and the injuries to David Ortiz and Stephen Drew, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com hears that the Red Sox are wavering on that stance.
“When camp began, he had no shot — none — of making the team,” said a club source.
And now, the person was asked, with the regular-season opener just 11 days away?
“I’d say it’s 50-50,” said the source, who added that the organization’s decision-makers are keeping an open mind on the subject and won’t make the call on Bradley until the middle of next week at the earliest.
Bradley, who turns 23 in April, is hitting .444 (20-for-45) with one home run, three doubles and five RBI in 20 games during Grapefruit League play. He has also drawn eight walks and struck out only five times. Of course, Baseball Reference’s handy new spring training stats indicate that he hasn’t faced the most advanced competition, but it’s hard not to be impressed by what he has done.
According to McAdam, if Bradley makes the Opening Day roster, the plan would be to use him everyday in left field and have Jonny Gomes fill in for Ortiz as the regular DH. If Ortiz is only going to miss the first three or four weeks of the season, the Red Sox have to ask themselves whether it’s worth starting Bradley’s arbitration clock, especially since he’s no lock to be better than their current internal options. Bradley only has 271 plate appearances above the High-A level and has never played a game in Triple-A. He has also never played a pro game in left field.
The best idea might be to send Bradley down and if Ortiz’s injury lingers and the other internal options struggle, call him up in mid-to-late April. Similar to the timing of Bryce Harper’s major league debut last year, the Red Sox would guarantee themselves an extra year of team control just by waiting a couple of weeks.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.