In my latest piece for ESPN I wrote, “As for Jackie Bradley, the probability that he develops into even a manageable big league bat certainly seems like a long shot; just 14 percent of players to struggle in a similar manner during the age-24 season have gone on to become successful big league bats.”
Those struggles, of course, have been well-documented at this point in the year. The former LSU standout owns a career .209/.284/.298 mark, a production line that’s been 39 percent below the league average during that time.
And while I documented the longshot odds that Bradley does eventually develop into even a serviceable big league bat, he does, however, have the capability to become a league average or better everyday player thanks to his plus-plus-defense.
In a rather short sample size, just 1179.0 total innings in his brief career, Bradley has been an absolute defensive wizard patrolling the pastures of Fenway. And any of the advanced metrics back that up: 14.2 UZR/150, 12.1 UZR, 10 Defensive Runs Saved Above Average according to Baseball Info Solutions, and 5 Total Fielding Runs Above Average according to BaseballProjection.com. And in roughly the equivalent of one full season, he has totaled 1.5 defensive wins above replacement.
Plus, his arm has to rate among the game’s best after uncorking a throw from Fenway’s home plate that sailed clear over the center field wall.
For Bradley, it won’t take a drastic improvement in his offense for him to push his total value north of 2.0 wins in a full season, the mark for a league average everyday player. And it wouldn’t be the first time the Red Sox traded offense for defensive value either. During the club’s first World Series run in 2004, the front office dealt Nomar Garciaparra, the then-face of the franchise, as part of a four-team trade that netted Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.