Jackie Bradley Jr.
There’s still a long way to go in this offseason, but the plan right now appears to have Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field for the Red Sox
Speaking on the Hot Stove Show Tuesday night, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that if the offensive production from all three outfielders were at an acceptable level, the team would be putting Mookie Betts in right field, Bradley Jr. in center and Rusney Castillo in left field.
“I think if you were to just prioritize the defense, Jackie is the best defensive outfielder we have. That’s clear,” Farrell said. “Whether it’s the naked eye, or whether it’s to any kind of measurement you want to put to it, Jackie is the best defender we have. So you could say an alignment would have Jackie in center, Mookie in right and Rusney in left. Who else we add to the outfielder core to give us some balance coming off the bench remains to be seen. But the one thing that Jackie did, particularly in August, is that he swung the bat like we were hopeful of. It was an outstanding month. And I think the key for Jackie is to hit enough to be an everyday player and here’s everyday center fielder.
“The one thing I will say is that we will continue to strive to get the most consistent defensive team up the middle that we can be. If you combine some of the offensive contributions to this, Mookie had an outstanding year offensively. He’s earned that everyday spot. This is something we’ll go into spring training, we’re going to take a look at both guys in center field and we know what they can do. It is going to come down to who plays and who produces offensively that we’ll give the most reps in center field.”
Betts had been the team’s primary center fielder, having played a team-leading 133 games at the position in 2015 before manning right for 11 games.
Bradley Jr., considered one of the best defenders in the major leagues, forced his way into the conversation with a standout offensive performance throughout most of August. From Aug. 7 until Sept. 7, the outfielder hit .422 with a 1.358 OPS over 27 games.
But, as Farrell noted, Bradley Jr. still has to show signs that he can produce consistently offensively. After the August run, he did slump in his last 25 games, hitting just .138 with a .510 OPS.
If Bradley Jr. does find a happy medium offensively, starting in spring training, it should lead to the aforementioned outfield configuration. Also helping make the decision was the ability by Betts and Castillo (who played 24 games in left field) to excel in their respective spots throughout September.
“That’s our best defense with that alignment right there,” Farrell said. “As we know, you need a well above-average defender in right field in our ballpark and we think we have three of them. All three can play center field. That gives us the most flexibility and coverage in that alignment.”