After weeks of speculation, it appears that Boston Red Sox’s highly-touted outfield prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. has made the team's Opening Day roster.
At the start of camp, the 22-year-old Bradley was believed to be ticketed for the minor leagues to start the season so he could play regularly. Instead, a hot spring appears to have propelled him to the major leagues.
Boston’s roster was down to its final two spots, with Bradley, Mike Carp and Ryan Sweeney battling to make the team.
Bradley is believed to be headed to Boston to start the year following news that the team informed Sweeney, who was signed to a minor league deal this offseason, that they would not be offering him a big league contract. This was first reported in a tweet by The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham:
#redsox have told Ryan Sweeney they will not be purchasing his contract.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 29, 2013
The Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson wrote that the only logical conclusion to be drawn from Sweeney’s contract being declined was that Bradley and Carp had made the team.
The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo also tweeted his belief that Bradley made the Red Sox:
Barring the pickup of another OF sure looks as if Jackie Bradley makes 25-man roster now that Ryan Sweeney has been cut— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) March 29, 2013
ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden tweeted that a source had confirmed Bradley’s place on the Boston roster:
Bos options Daniel Bard to AA &will promote Bradley to ML team according to source; Rockies designate Ramon Hernandez, Ross Pads 5th starter— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) March 29, 2013
As MacPherson reported, the left-handed Bradley forced the issue by hitting a blistering .441 with a .521 OBP this spring, while displaying a veteran presence.
Despite his production, the debate raged all spring whether the Red Sox should send him to the minors or keep him in Boston.
With veteran designated hitter David Ortiz expected to start the season on the disabled list, the Red Sox needed another player who could handle a bat in his absence.
Bradley, a 2011 first-round draft choice out of the University of South Carolina, impressed many last season, which was his first full year in professional baseball. He appeared in a total of 128 games between high Single-A and Double-A, hitting .315 with nine home runs, 63 RBI and 24 stolen bases. His .430 OBP was indicative of his keen ability to get on base.
SoxProspects.com reported that Bradley is a plus hitter and an outstanding defensive outfielder. A natural center fielder, Bradley has the ability to play the corner spots as well.
With Jacoby Ellsbury slated to start in center for Boston, Bradley will likely slide over to left, with the defensively-challenged Jonny Gomes assuming primary DH duties while Ortiz is out.
WEEI’s Kirk Minihane wrote how keeping Bradley in the minors until April 12 would have afforded the Red Sox an extra year of control over the youngster, and made him ineligible for free agency until after his sixth major league season.
If Bradley spends at least 20 consecutive days in the minor leagues this season, the Red Sox will be able to recoup that additional year of player control. But, it appears that the they want to field their best team now and will worry about future contract issues down the road.
With Boston opening their season on April 1 against the New York Yankees, Bradley will be thrown into the fire from the get-go. He is certain to continue being a major storyline, and many will anxiously wait to see if he can live up to all of the hype.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference