Heading into the offseason, there remained a slim chance that the Boston Red Sox would be able to hang on to star outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but after winning the World Series and seeing the price tags of several of their in-house players go up, those hopes quickly faded. Ellsbury bolted for the Bronx, where he signed an absolutely absurd contract with the New York Yankees.
Now the Red Sox face the task of replacing their center fielder, likely from a mix of players already inside of their clubhouse. Their official website currently has Shane Victorino as both the starting center fielder and right fielder. At this point, all signs point to him remaining over in right, where he played for much of 2013, bringing his typically strong defense to the position, in addition to some pop in the lineup, particularly in the postseason.
As far as replacing Ellsbury, the first route the Red Sox go will likely involve Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley’s name was floated out there at the trade deadline, but the Red Sox elected to hang onto him, presumably to plug him into the lineup in the event that Ellsbury departed in free agency. It all makes sense.
Bradley got a cup of coffee with the Sox last year, but didn’t fare particularly well. He only saw 95 big league at bats last year, managing a batting average of just .189. While those numbers are disappointing, there’s still quite a bit to like about the prospect’s future with the organization, as far as his skill set is concerned.
Bradley impressed the team out of camp last season, before being sent down to Pawtucket shortly after the 2013 campaign got underway. In Triple-A, he hit .275 and reached base at a .374 clip, going for an .842 OPS as well. Not quite a base stealer, Bradley is likely to be considered in the mix for the leadoff spot for next year, considering his impressive on-base numbers in Triple-A last year. It should also be noted that 2013 was his first action above Double-A.
It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out for Jackie Bradley Jr. with the Red Sox next year. Unlike last year, he’s likely a lock to start the season in center and should have very little competition. The Red Sox may explore adding a veteran presence for depth purposes, but at this point, there’s no reason to think anything other than the fact that Bradley is the guy for 2014.