As crazy as it sounds to say this, the concern amongst those wanted Jackie Bradley Jr. to start the year in the minors was that he would be too good. No, it's not possible under most circumstances--or indeed in a vacuum--for a player to be "too good" for their team. But Bradley wasn't going to play in a vacuum, he was going to play in Boston, where the fans are demanding, and the team has, in the past, shown plenty of concern for public perception.
In this case, "too good" means "too good to send down." If Jackie Bradley Jr. had kept on rolling while the team as a whole had struggled--particularly the players he was displacing from left field in Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes--it would be very tough for the Red Sox to pull that trigger, sending him back to the minors in order to ensure an extra year of team control.
This has not come to pass. Partly that's because Jackie Bradley has struggled. He's a terrific prospect, and we've seen just how good his glove and batting eye can be. At the moment, though, he has vulnerabilities. Ones that are best worked on in the minors. Thankfully, though, there's more to this than that, because so far the Red Sox are succeeding in spite of Jackie Bradley's struggles at the plate, and in part because of what Gomes and, in particular, Nava have provided so far.
It hasn't always been pretty for Gomes thus far, to be frank. He's currently hitting just .231, and is one of those bats that's supposed to crush lefties that just hasn't so far. The good news for him, though, is that the Sox have just one game in Fenway, where his swing should play very well, and he has maintained a high OBP of .375 by working some impressive plate appearances and drawing walks.
For Daniel Nava, though, there's no need to explain away problems. He's only had 17 plate appearances so far, but those 17 have been simply insane. As of today, Nava is hitting .500/.588/1.083. His wRC+ is 308.
Are these numbers significant? Not really. 17 plate appearances simply don't tell you much about a player or their ability. Yuniesky Betancourt has outhit Albert Pujols over some five day period, I'd be willing to bet. That being said, this is not a question of "Is Daniel Nava better than Jackie Bradley Jr. right now?" but "Can we justify sending Bradley down to our fans?" As of right now, the answer is yes. Oh, sure, there will be some fans grumbling, others referencing Dustin Pedroia's April woes in 2007. But there will be enough others shrugging and acknowledging he ust needs a little more time that it shouldn't be a problem.
Of course, Bradley and Nava can change that in a hurry. David Ortiz is only just starting to play in extended spring training, meaning there's still more than a week's worth of games to go before his return forces a roster move. If Bradley figures out that inside fastball, and Nava ends up slumping without a corresponding bump in performance from Gomes, then suddenly the decision could be that much harder.
As it stands, though, the Sox have their excuse to get Jackie Bradley a few more weeks in the minors, and lock him in for 2019. It's an opportunity they'll be happy to take if everyone involved in the equation can stay healthy for the next month.
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