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Work Ethic not the Issue for Jackie Bradley, Jr.

September 3rd, 2014 at 6:53 PM
By Sean Penney

Jackie Bradley, Jr. has come under fire for his work ethic since his demotion from the Boston Red Sox to Triple-A Pawtucket, but the young center fielder is looking to prove his doubters wrong.

He's not the only one that believes Bradley is putting in the work to improve. GM Ben Cherington made it clear this afternoon that "there’s never been an issue from the Red Sox’s perspective of whether he’s willing to work or whether he cares." Attitude problems weren't the reason he was sent down and he's not uncoachable. It's all about results – and Bradley simply hasn't been producing.

During his time with the big league club, Bradley was a mess at the plate, hitting a putrid .216 over 348 at-bats. His .578 OPS is the worst among any AL hitter with 250+ at-bats this season and he struck out in a staggering 31.8% of the time. His defense in center field was so fantastic that he still managed to be worth 1.6 WAR, but in order to earn a spot in Boston's crowded outfield, it's clear that he has to improve at the plate no matter what he can do with his glove.

Unfortunately, things haven't gotten any better in Pawtucket, where he hit .212 in 14 games. Batting average can be fluky in small sample sizes, with luck often playing somewhat of a factor, but it's not as if Bradley has been scorching a bunch of line drives right at fielders. He struck out 18 times in 66 at-bats (27.2%) and drew only 3 walks. There have been mixed reviews regarding the progress he's made with certain aspects at the plate the team has asked him to focus on, which led to the backlash about his work ethic.

With the minor league season winding down, Bradley will likely find his way back on Boston's roster at some point this month. If nothing else, he could provide value as a defensive replacement late in games. After all, despite being out of the majors for nearly three weeks now, he still leads all AL center fielders in assists (13), Range Factor (3.00) and is second in DWAR (2.1).

The Red Sox have plenty of options in the outfield as they look toward 2015, so Bradley will have his work cut out for him if he wants to reclaim his starting spot next season. However, let's not forget that he's still a young player that has shown a lot of potential in the past. He's a career .290 hitter in the minor leagues, so he's had success at the plate before, but he was only ever given 320 at-bats at the Triple-A level last year before being thrust into the spotlight as a starter to begin this season. He was rushed to the majors to fill the void left by Jacoby Ellsbury's departure because the team knew his glove was ready and underestimated how unprepared his bat was.

None of that is necessarily Bradley's fault. The point is, it's too early for anyone to be giving up on him yet. He's been adamant about his eagerness to put in the work to make whatever adjustments he needs to succeed. Time will tell if he can do it, but his previous success at other levels suggests he can.

It's just going to take some work.

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