In 2016, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. made his first MLB All-Star team. For Red Sox fans, the selection was a long time coming.
Bradley was a top prospect for Boston, jumping from No. 19 to No. 4 in the first half of the 2012 season on SoxProspects.com. He spent the 2013 season as the No. 2 prospect, and entered the 2014 season in the same spot, just behind Xander Bogaerts. Bradley made his MLB debut in 2013, but played just 37 games and fizzled out.
The centerfielder played 127 games in 2014, but by the end of his second season, his career batting average was .196 to go along with his .548 OPS.
He went through 2015 hitting a career-high .249, but he played just 74 games and most saw his once bright future as unobtainable. Then, in 2016, he had a 29-game hitting streak and made the American League All-Star Team.
Since then, some fans have seen him as the centerpiece of the Red Sox outfield of the future. He is one of the Killer B’s—Bradley, Betts, Benintendi and Bogaerts—and he wowed people with his glove and post-game dances. After some offseason trade rumors, Bradley returned to Boston and was slotted in as a staple of the back end of the lineup.
Now, a month into the season, Bradley is boasting career-worsts, with a .178 batting average and .535 OPS. Whatever way you split it, he just isn’t getting it done. In Fenway, he’s hitting .173 while on the road, he’s hitting .182. Against righties, he’s hitting .219 while against lefties, he’s hitting 0.88. Yes, some splits are better than others, but he has been unable to find any rhythm at the plate.
Despite the slump, Bradley is still an everyday player for the Red Sox. He has sat for just three games all year, and he is hitless out of the nine spot—where he hit .341 with a .986 OPS in his All-Star 2016 season. Bradley’s wRC+ of 47—which means his park-adjusted offensive production—is 53 below league average and is the sixth-worst mark in the entire league.
The 28-year-old has gone through slumps before, but few have been this severe or scrutinized. It may be time for manager Alex Cora and the Sox to start looking elsewhere for their third outfield slot, as it has become abundantly clear that Bradley can’t sustainably be anything more than a flashy glove.