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.