When spring training began, Jackie Bradley Jr. had zero chance of making the Boston Red Sox.
Now? The odds remain remote, but they’re not zero.
Bradley has been one of the stories of spring training, at least early in camp, showing an ability to reach base against left-handed and righthanded pitchers, and also making it look ridiculously easy in center field, where his instincts are already considered Gold Glove.
“Is it completely far-fetched that he could make the team?” manager John Farrell said. “Good question. I guess the best way to answer that is coming into camp, we didn’t have that as a strong possibility, but yet we’re (early) in the game schedule and he could still be served well by getting more at-bats in the minor leagues before he comes up, but again, he’s making a very strong impression in camp.”
Bradley may not possess world-class speed, but he more than compensates with unparalleled instincts.
“We talk about in the staff room,” Farrell said. “You’d think he’s been working at this a long time because your eyes are trained to follow the pitch and then you see contact, and it almost seems like before contact is made, he’s already on the move. It’s been impressive to see that. If you just time the sheer footspeed, it’s not like he’s a world class sprinter where he’s going to outrun the baseball. His instincts and his routes are exceptional.”
Bradley represents one of the brightest pieces of the future. It is widely assumed he’ll replace Jacoby Ellsbury when the latter inevitably departs in free agency next winter.
But what if he accelerates his timetable? With draft-pick compensation rules changing (in order to receive a compensatory draft pick for a departing free agent, he must have been in your organization from opening day), would the Sox ever consider trading Ellsbury now and handing the job to Bradley?
Probably not, but the fact that we’re even having this conversation shows just how wide Bradley has opened eyes.
“Every time he’s stepped on the field, he’s done something very positive,” Farrell said. “For a young player, he’s sound fundamentally. Defensively, he takes outstanding routes to some difficult plays in the outfield, even in the early going here. And he’s hit both left-handed and right-handed pitching.
“For a young player to make a positive impression in camp, he’s gotten off to a very good start.”