When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007, it was a testament to Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, and the rest of the Red Sox scouting staff. The core members of that team were homegrown, with Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis standing out as the best examples of a strong farm system. When the Red Sox started to have issues, the problems weren’t in who they were picking and developing, it was more of who they signed in free agency and also who they gave away in deals for established veterans. I am quite sure that if the Red Sox had a mulligan on the Justin Masterson for Victor Martinez, they would take it back in a second.
Ben Cherington has a goal- rebuild the farm system to the heydays of 01-07, and start producing all-star home grown talent that is manageable from a cost perspective and also allows the Red Sox to teach the player “the Red Sox Way”. In the last 12 months, we have heard the cries for patience and told how excited we should be for the future, and the name that tops the list of future stars is outfielder Jackie Bradley. Bradley, 22, who was the 40th pick of the 2011 draft out of the University of South Carolina, has steadily worked his way through the Red Sox farm system in his limited time, and last season may have been a preview of a future all-star.
Bradley only got to play in 10 total games with the Red Sox organization in 2011, but in 2012, Bradley proved his first round pedigree. Between Single A-Salem and Double-A Portland, Bradley played in 128 games while posting an impressive line of .315/.430/.911, and he also chipped in with 42 doubles, which can be an extremely dangerous asset for a left handed hitter in Fenway Park. Bradley has also shown serious potential as a defender, with his top end speed and instincts giving him an advantage over players like Johnny Gomes.
The original plan was to have Bradley report to Triple-A after spring training because he was going to get the most at-bats possible, and then he would be ready to replace Ellsbury in 2014, or move to a corner position if Ellsbury stays, which is a possibility. The thing is, Bradley might make this decision much harder than Red Sox management expected, and if Bradley is ready to go, what is the point of sending him down to Triple-A? Yes, the Red Sox signed Shane Victorino and Johnny Gomes to man the outfield while waiting for prospects like Bradley, but if the prospect is ready to play, you have to use him.
Bradley, although it is early, is five for his first nine this spring, and with Shane Victorino headed to the World Baseball Classic, Bradley is going to play a lot over the next two weeks, so he will get every opportunity to show what he can do. If Bradley can keep his average above .300 like he has on every other stop in his career, the Red Sox prospect will force the hands of the decision makers. I am quite sure that Bradley would rather spend his opening day in Fenway versus the Yankees instead of in Scranton-Wilkes Barre Stadium; it’s up to him to make it happen.
*Statistics Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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