The Red Sox have one of, if not the most exciting young outfields in all of Major League Baseball. Jackie Bradley Jr is the elder statesmen of the group at the ripe old age of 26. They are led by 2016 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner Mookie Betts. He broke out last year by batting .318/.363/.534 with 31 home runs, 113 RBI with almost an OPS of .900 (.897). While he was clearly potent at the plate, it felt like every night he was making a ridiculous highlight reel worthy catch as he was far and away the best defensive right fielder in all of baseball. Betts finished second in the MVP voting to the one and only Mike Trout. With how young he is, and his level of experience, his all-around game should continue to improve.
Although he didn’t win a Gold Glove for centerfield in 2016, Jackie Bradley Jr is without a doubt the best defensive centerfielder in all of baseball. In fact, he’s one of the better defensive center fielders I’ve ever watched. He doesn’t take bad routes to the ball, and it just seems like he glides to where the ball is going to land as he makes every catch look effortless. The issues with JBJ arises when he’s at the plate. In 2016, JBJ finished the season with a very respectable .267 batting average, a surprising 26 homers along with 87 RBI’s. I completely expect the power numbers to come down to Earth. I don’t anticipate that Bradley will be necessarily worse this year, but the Sox offense as a whole will take a Papi sized step backward in 2017. The issue with Bradley is consistency. JBJ is the definition of a streaky hitter, and the beginning of the 2016 season is a perfect microcosm for the type of hitter he is. In Bradley’s first 60 plate appearances last year, he hit a disappointing .222/.271/.315. During the following month JBJ went on an absolute tear as he ended up having the longest hitting streak in the majors last season at 29 games. During those 29 games (121 plate appearances) Bradley hit an other worldly .415/.488/.783. Talk about going from one end of the spectrum to the other. He was streaky from that point on until the end of the season. From the end of the hitting streak until the end of July JBJ hit a very respectable .251/.342/.472., but from August until the end of the season he struggled by hitting .216/.303/.387.
In 2016, left field was somewhat of a revolving door throughout the season until the position was stabilized by the number 1 prospect in all of baseball, Andrew Benintendi. He played so well after his call up that the expectations for Benny are sky high. The only downside of his time in the majors last year was a freak injury while running the bases in St Petersburg at the Trop which caused him to miss almost 3 weeks in the regular season. Once he returned he finished the season strong and he was one of the lone bright spots in the ALDS against the Indians. In the 34 games he played last year he hit .295/.353/.476 with an impressive OPS of .835, and showed a great approach at the plate with a sweet swing to go along with it. Obviously 34 games is an extremely small sample size, but most pundits are penciling Benintendi in as the A.L. Rookie of the year. He has a smooth, effortless swing and he’s shown that he is excellent at making contact. He has doubles power as he excels at hitting the ball in the gaps, but can that translate into hitting the ball out of the ballpark? He hit a total of 11 homers last year between Single A, Double A, and the majors. This year it’s reasonable to expect Benintendi to hit 15 home runs, but as he continues to develop, he should be capable of reaching the 20 home run plateau. I completely expect Benintendi to go through slumps as teams make adjustments to the rookie, but with as effortless and smooth as his swing is, I wouldn’t expect any long term struggles from the 22 year old.
The sky’s the limit for the Boston outfield, and they could very well carry the team in the post David Ortiz era. Heading into the 2017 season the Red Sox outfield is considered one of the best in the American League. By the end of the 2017 season, we’ll be talking about how the Sox outfield is the best outfield in the game.