To say Jackie Bradley Jr. has struggled offensively this year would be an understatement. So far in 2018, JBJ has a slash-line of .171./ .263 / .256 / .519. All of that has combined for a -0.4 wins above replacement (WAR) according to ESPN. This just goes to show what Bradley is. A replacement player that should not be starting on this Boston Red Sox team.
Most of Bradley’s MLB offensive production pretty much came in two months. Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub tweeted out that if you take away Bradley’s May 2016 (29-game-hit-streak) and June 2017, JBJ’s career average is .219. Not the best!
“But what about his defense? He is, like, the best fielder in the entire MLB.” I know Red Sox fans. Bradley is as gifted as anyone in the outfield. He consistently gets great jumps, has excellent route efficiency, and can make those Superman-esque plays that most people can not. That doesn’t mean he should be starting almost everyday. He is an offensive liability.
Like I just said, Bradley’s biggest strength is his ability in the field, but it isn’t that much of a difference maker for Boston.
When Bradley is in center field, it typically means Hanley Ramirez and his lackluster defense is gracing first base. If you didn’t know, Hanley isn’t the best defender.
When Bradley isn’t in center, J.D. Martinez ends up in the outfield, Mitch Moreland ends up at first base, and Ramirez gets to be the designated hitter.
Martinez and Ramirez are going to be in the lineup regardless of where they are playing, but having Moreland at first gives the Red Sox a much deeper lineup and could even help them defensively. Moreland’s 2018 has gotten off to a great start. He currently has an OPS over 1.000, which is almost double that of JBJ.
I don’t need to list any more stats to show how Moreland is a better hitter than Bradley. What does need to be explained is how and why having Moreland at first and Bradley out of center doesn’t make the Red Sox defense any worse, and potentially makes it better.
Yes Bradley out of center puts a butcher like J.D. Martinez in left, but he is capable of playing the Green Monster. And we heard all offseason about how Martinez would prefer to play the outfield, so it’s a win for the former Detroit Tiger, but that is not the biggest benefit for the BoSox.
Settling with Moreland as your everyday first baseman would help the team overall. The offense will be better, but the defense would even get better too.
The Sox would slide Andrew Benintendi over to center (his natural position) and with Mookie Betts next to him in right, a lot of ground will be covered. It may not be as much ground as JBJ can cover but it would still be an above-average defensive outfield.
Now, with Moreland in the infield, the Sox would be able to disguise their worst defender (Rafeal Devers) a little easier. Moreland’s ability to scoop, stretch, and stay on the bag could help limit throwing errors from the 21-year-old third baseman. No, Moreland won’t be able to fix Devers footwork from across the diamond, but the former Texas Ranger has a better chance of stopping errant throws than “El Trece”.
Alex Cora has done a decent job so far in his rookie season as manager, but finally putting Bradley down on the pine would benefit the team all-around. He definitely sees this, but he can’t just give up on his player. That’s why Bradley is still playing. But Cora needs to put feelings aside very soon, especially with Yankees surging towards the top of the division.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)