This is what we were expecting last season. After Jackie Bradley Jr. was named to the 2013 Opening Day roster after a monumental spring, we all believed he was going to be Jacoby Ellsbury 2.0. Unfortunately, Bradley floundered during his stint with the big-league club, going 3-for-31 in April and getting sent back down to the minors. It was easy to forget once the Sox grew their beards, cursed on television, and went on to win the 2013 World Series.
2014 is here and we have a very different JBJ in front of us. With an injury to Shane Victorino, Bradley has been given plenty of time on the field. He has manned centerfield for when Grady Sizemore gets a day off, and has looked very comfortable in the big right field at Fenway Park. With Ellsbury gone, some people are penning Jackie in as the next Ellsbury, hoping to see him bat leadoff and jumpstart a team that can use a spark early on in the season.
However, I feel the more appropriate comparison is with the man who is currently on the DL. Bradley plays the outfield with a similar style to that of Victorino. He has tremendous recovery speed and hasn’t shown any fear in going after balls in tight corners. Not to say Ellsbury didn’t do the same, but Bradley also has an arm comparable to Victorino, making the similarities a bit chilling. At the plate, Bradley has the potential to be a much more consistent hitter than the Flyin’ Hawaiian, in terms of average. Where Victorino has the advantage is his ability to get on base. He usually has an OBP around 70 points higher than his average, something Bradley must mimic if John Farrell wants him to leadoff.
But early on in this 2014 season, we are seeing why the Sox believe in JBJ. His stance seems to be a bit more closed this season, allowing him to shorten that quick swing of his and giving him more reach to hit the ball the other way. Even when Victorino comes back, there is certainly a spot on this team for Bradley to get around 350 at-bats. With Sizemore needing some rest, and Victorino probably needing the same, JBJ would do well to absorb as much as he can from two of the more well-rounded outfielders of the last decade.