If you want to look forward to a brighter, more-youthful future at Fenway, read Alex Speier on the up-and-comer named Jackie Bradley (great baseball name), who is probably going to succeed Jacoby Ellsbury as the Red Sox center fielder. Scouts rave about Bradley’s defense, which may be better than Ellsbury’s because of better judgment of balls off the bat and a much better arm. An excerpt:
Scout 1: “When you see him play defense, it’s something to behold. He knows exactly where the ball is going to fall, tremendous off the bat, he has the best right fielder’s arm you can find. He’ll be a dynamic player. No question.
“I’m not the only one from competing teams who thinks it’s night-and-day compared to everyone else you’re watching in that league. There’s no comparison. In 30 years of watching baseball, I can put him up there among the top center fielders in terms of defensive ability I’ve ever seen — at any level.”
(This scout suggested that Bradley’s defense is good enough that, if the Red Sox retained both him and Ellsbury, he would push Ellsbury to a corner.)
Scout 2: “I was surprised at how well he plays center. The ball is hit, and he’s not as fast as Ben Revere, but the ball is hit and he’s there. Whereas Ellsbury outruns the ball sometimes, this kid plays centerfield and does it well. Kudos to the Red Sox. Great pick.”
I’ve always been an Ellsbury defender. I hated it when folks questioned the severity of his rib injuries, and I hate that some of those same people are now taking jabs at Ellsbury for not being back from his shoulder injury even though he put up an MVP-caliber season in 2011 and is obviously not prone to minor injuries. (It’s like they can’t help themselves. What exactly is their main beef with Ellsbury, that their wives talk about how cute he is when the games are on? Is it the resentment of Pink Hats?) I’m guessing Ellsbury will reignite the Red Sox when he and Carl Crawford are manning the outfield in the second half. However, given the horrible track record the Red Sox have in handing over huge contracts to free agents, and given Ellsbury’s agent (Scott Boras), it seems a forgone conclusion that the Sox will trade Ellsbury while his value is highest—this year would’ve been the ideal time—or watch him head off to greener pa$ture$ after the 2013 season. How the Sox part ways with Ellsbury will depend on how essential he is to their plans for this year and the next. Personally, I like the club’s history in terms of using those extra draft picks to stock the farm system (Ex. the Buchholz pick was acquired when Pedro left for the Mets) , so it wouldn’t bother me a bit to see him on the team through next year but not beyond.
It’s comforting to know that the Sox are drafting well, and that they may be heading towards an era of homegrown lineups. Imagine this lineup in 2013:
That’s 5, maybe 6, homegrown players complemented by a few high-priced free agents. Good stuff.