It took longer than it should, but Jackie Bradley Jr. finally has a new home. It’s fair to say it’s a surprising one, too.
According to multiple outlets, the Brewers have signed Bradley to a two-year, $24 million contract. That second year is a player option that would pay the outfielder $13 million if he chooses to stay in Milwaukee for the 2022 season.
A collegiate star who was drafted with the 40th pick by the Red Sox back in 2011, Bradley Jr. has spent all of his MLB time with Boston, and has had mixed offensive success with the bat. In eight years in BeanTown, the outfielder has a career line of .239/.231/.412 with 98 homers in873 games. Those numbers don’t really tell the story of how good -- and bad -- he’s been with the bat at times, however. He has five seasons where he has posted an OPS below his career .733 mark, but also three years where he’s gone above the .800 level. One of those was last year, as Bradley Jr. hit a career high .283 with an .814 OPS with seven homers and five steals in 191 at-bats. He entered free agency for the first time this winter, and while he was rumored to have heavy interest from both the Red Sox and the Houston Astros, he didn’t find a landing spot until the spring season started.
This is a bit of a weird fit on paper, but it does make some sense even if there are questions as to how Milwaukee will make it work. Not Kyrie Irving/James Harden who will be the point guard questions, but questions. The first being who is going to play center field. Bradley is a terrific defensive player, but so is Lorenzo Cain, and he’s back after opting out a week into the 2020 season. Christian Yelich is going to play left field, so either Cain or Bradley Jr. is going to move to right field. That’s something the Brewers are going to have to figure out, with Avisail Garcia the odd-man out and likely a bench option barring injury.
From a fantasy perspective, it’s tough to recommend Bradley as anything more than a backup outfielder. Yes he was solid last year and has had some seasons where the bat was nearly as good as the glove, but there’s just not been enough consistency as a hitter to expect him to be a player you want in your fantasy lineup. It’s also worth noting that the Milwaukee lineup is not exactly the best even with Yelich very likely to rebound, so the run production -- or the opportunity for it, anyway -- just doesn’t seem likely.
However, Bradley does have a chance to make a fantasy impact in a different way; a helper to the Milwaukee pitchers. Yelich, Cain and the 30-year-old (until April) form one of the best defensive outfields in the sport, no matter how they are lined up. Pitchers like Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and the like are certainly going to enjoy those three’s ability to get to the baseball in the gap, and it should cut down on the doubles.
Bradley Jr. is a terrific “real-life” player, but may not have the type of fantasy impact that you’re looking for -- even from a bench outfielder.
Pearson diagnosed with groin strain
The Blue Jays got some bad news on Thursday, and it involves one of their top prospects and a projected key contributor to their rotation.
Nate Pearson was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of his right groin. The news was revealed by Toronto GM Ross Atkins, and Atkins declined to speculate on a potential return for the 24-year-old.
A first-round pick who has put up monster numbers in the minors, Pearson was expected to be a big part of the rotation this year. Now, the question is when he’ll be able to get back on the mound. With two out pitches in a fastball that gets into triple digits and a wipeout slider, he has the stuff to be dominant at the highest level. He also has struggled with command, however, and he has never thrown more than 101 2/3 innings as a professional; bring about questions about his durability.
With a trip to the injured list to begin the season likely, Pearson can be a stash for interested fantasy managers, but he’s a much better long-term play at this point than one with redraft value. As a prospect writer, this hurt just as much to type as it did for you to read, if not more.
Fried won’t make start after potential COVID-19 exposure
Max Fried was scheduled to make his first start of the spring on Friday against the Twins, but that won’t happen now.
Braves manager Brian Snitker announced that Fried will not start against Minnesota due to potential exposure to someone who has COVID-19.
Fried is expected to pitch at or near the top of the rotation this year after finishing fifth in Cy Young Award voting and going 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA. The left-hander also won 17 games in 2019, and is one of the best young southpaw starts in the National League.
In his place, Kyle Wright will start for the Braves.
Bumgarner impresses in Cactus League debut
It’s an understatement to call 2020 a lost season for Madison Bumgarner, but he did end the year with a couple of nice starts, and he got off to a very nice beginning to the 2021 campaign -- if you count the Cactus League as a beginning, anyway.
Bumgarner went two innings against the Rangers on Thursday, and he recorded six strikeouts without allowing a run. He threw 33 pitches -- 20 of them for strikes -- and reportedly topped out at 91 mph with his fastball. It’s worth noting that in his 41 2/3 innings last year, he didn’t strike out the side a single time in 2020.
Putting it bluntly, Bumgarner was bad in 2020. He registered a 6.48 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 30/13 K/BB ratio in his nine starts. Ugly, but he was a little better than those numbers suggested. Eight of his runs allowed came in one disaster of a start against the Angels where he gave up 13 hits, and he gave up no more than two runs in four of his last five starts, and the last two saw him give up zero runs over 10 innings while allowing just four hits. On the other hand, he ranked in the bottom one percent in several metrics last year, including barrel percentage, expected ERA and expected batting average against.
Bumgarner’s previous success makes him worth keeping an eye on, but even if he remains dominant in the Cactus League, there’s probably better fantasy options out there to fill out your pitching staff.
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National League Quick Hits: Nationals manager Dave Martinez revealed Thursday that Tanner Rainey entered camp this spring with a minor muscle strain near his collarbone … Max Scherzer (ankle) will make his spring training debut on Friday … Yu Darvish is set to make his Cactus League debut on Sunday … Diamondbacks signed RHP Anthony Swarzak to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Kole Calhoun (knee) said Thursday that he is aiming to return before May. Calhoun was diagnosed with a medial meniscus tear in his right knee on Tuesday and underwent surgery on Wednesday … Andrew Miller (COVID-19) threw live batting practice Thursday in Cardinals camp … Rowan Wick (intercostal) has resumed playing catch without issue … Nick Castellanos (finger) is expected to return to Cactus League action on Friday … Jose Castillo will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery and Javy Guerra will miss multiple weeks with a UCL sprain in his right elbow … Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters that Brandon Woodruff's (back) outing went as planned on Thursday … Brandon Belt (illness) was able to participate in baseball activities on Thursday … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters that Cody Bellinger is "progressing very well."
American League Quick Hits: Red Sox signed INF/OF Danny Santana to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Kevin Kiermaier (hips) is on track to make his Grapefruit League debut Tuesday … Chris Archer (shoulder) threw another bullpen session Wednesday in Rays camp and could soon make his Grapefruit League debut … According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the "initial recommendation" for Framber Valdez is to undergo surgery on his fractured left ring finger … Michael Chavis is day-to-day in Red Sox camp due to back tightness … Shed Long (shin) won't make his Cactus League debut for another couple of days … Richie Martin (hand) could get into Grapefruit League games sometime next week … Freddy Galvis was scratched from the Orioles' Grapefruit League lineup on Thursday due to hip soreness … Adalberto Mondesi (foot) will run the bases and work on sliding on Thursday … Lance Lynn recorded three strikeouts over two scoreless innings on Thursday in his Cactus League debut against the Rangers … Caleb Thielbar is currently unavailable with a back strain.