Jackie Bradley Jr. #25 of the Boston Red Sox runs to third base for a triple during the seventh inning of the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium on March 11, 2014 in Sarasota, Florida.

The news that Jackie Bradley Jr. will start the season in Pawtucket isn’t surprising. I was in Ft. Myers this past week catching as many Boston Red Sox games that I could, and after seeing a solid week of JBJ playing, I’m surprised the Red Sox waited this long to announce that Grady Sizemore got the nod over JBJ.

Bradley is having tremendous troubles handling MLB pitching. In the games I saw where JBJ was pitted against MLB starters in their final tune up outings, not only did JBJ not manage to get a hit or draw a walk, but he had trouble making contact to put the ball in play. If JBJ didn’t strikeout, he would foul out. I can only recall one at-bat where JBJ hit the ball in fair territory, grounding out to shortstop.

I bring this up because, when considering whether the Red Sox made the right choice with keeping Bradley in Pawtucket, it’s important to look beyond the stats. JBJ’s stats are bad enough: .158 AVG / .213 OBP for spring training; and a dismal .059 / .059 (1 hit, 0 walks) since 3/21. Sometimes players experience bad luck, but they could be making solid contact while always hitting the ball at a fielder and becoming an out. This is not the case with JBJ, because in the final week of spring training he just wasn’t making solid contact, period. And if the Red Sox didn’t have a resurgent Grady Sizemore to fall back on, it may have been necessary for them to make a trade for an outfielder before opening day because JBJ’s performance has been that poor.

Bradley is still young and still a prospect, so unless Sizemore falls apart and the Red Sox need JBJ to perform immediately, another year of seasoning in AAA won’t hurt his progression as a player. But 2014 will be a make or break year for JBJ as a prospect. If Sizemore stays healthy and puts in a decent season, and JBJ hits .255 in Pawtucket, then Sizemore may become the Red Sox center fielder in the short term while the Sox look for a prospect to replace JBJ as the future.

photo credit: getty images