Lowered Expectations: Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Now I know I’m not alone in this thought. I know Bret’s told you all before. Excuse me then, because I feel the need to repeat both myself and others on this topic, in the wake of some pure insanity. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (I’ll start dropping the “, Jr.” for ease of use at this point) is an exciting and entertaining prospect. He’s even got a great smile! But we all have to slow our collective rolls on him in the fantasy community. Yes, his debut was impressive. No, the Red Sox will not win every game.
It’s important to note that anything to do with his major league outings thus far constitute the smallest of small samples. Even so, was it good to see that he walked three times in one game? Absolutely. Will pitches adjust and start attacking him? Absolutely. His three walks in one game support his .500 OBP, but conversely, he does only have one hit in 6 at-bats. In the end, all of this is meaningless. 10 plate appearances don’t tell us much one way or the other.
What I come back to, again and again, is that Bradley had all of 61 games and 229 at-bats at Double-A last year. If he had dominated Double-A in the fashion that he did Hi-A, I would still be concerned about him jumping straight to the majors, but would at least be more understanding of it. Bradley’s .271/.373/.437 slash line at Double-A is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it came in his age 22 season (he’ll turn 23 in two weeks). That’s not to say he’s old for his level, but that he was on level and producing a solid-but-not-great stat line.
When it comes to his tools, his best attribute for fantasy owners lies in his approach at the plate. He has incredible instincts for the game, both in the field, and at the plate. This gives him a firm grasp of the strike zone and allows his hit tool to play up a bit. While Bradley shouldn’t challenge for batting titles, he’ll be good enough with the stick to not be overmatched. His on base ability will allow him to be a factor in the runs category for fantasy owners. Hindering his fantasy value is that while he’s not slow, he’s also not a burner. He only stole bases at a 72% clip in 2012, which represents the bulk of his minor league statistics. Bradley is an instinctive defensive player who provides tremendous value to his real life team in the outfield. While this will secure him at-bats and might even preserve his playing time when the Red Sox are fully healthy, don’t let that cloud your fantasy judgement.
I don’t like to make comps, but I’ve always pictured Bradley as Denard Span with the potential for more pop, down the line. The issue is that his power plays below it’s potential right now, but if he makes some adjustments, he could get in the 12-14 home run range (and his home park won’t hurt him there). Now, Denard Span is a useful player, especially when it comes to dynasty leagues, so Bradley does have very real value. But this post is more a call to reason than it is any sort of hate-fest on JBJ. He’s a joy to watch play the game, but if you’re going to pay any more for him than you would Span, I beg of you to rethink your position. On the flip side, now might be the time for an enterprising owner to see who is buying into Bradley’s hype. As is always the case, when a solid prospect is receiving extra hype, there’s profit to be had.