Opening Day is less than a week away, and the KC Royals continue to establish their 26-man roster. Several non-roster invitees are poised to make the Opening Day roster, and reports are that outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. will make the 26-man roster. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman said that he is "hearing" Bradley will remain in Kansas City, via Twitter Saturday.
The KC Royals Opening Day roster continues to take shape, and it seems Jackie Bradley Jr. will be a Royal on March 30.
One of the streakiest hitters in recent memory has had a good spring training run in Surprise. His .962 OPS is third among Royals outfielders with at least five game appearances, and his defense has not regressed either. Bradley was among the best defensive outfielders in 2022, according to Baseball Savant. His seven outs above average in 2022 ranked 15th-best in MLB and would have only trailed centerfielder Kyle Isbel on the 2022 Royals.
Bradley had an uninspiring 2022 season at the plate, ranking near the MLB's bottom in several key statistics. For that reason, most fans, including myself, were not optimistic about his impact this season for the Royals. But, as writer Kevin O'Brien noted his spot could only be a placeholder for outfielder Drew Waters.
A younger, more volatile Royals outfield could use a veteran presence like Bradley in 2023. When Bradley arrived at spring training camp, Royals manager Matt Quatraro spoke on his value on and off the field.
"I don’t ever think about bringing a guy in because he’s doing something other than performing on the field. That other kind of stuff is a byproduct of who he is as a person and his experiences. But when he comes here, he’s here to play well for himself and for the team. Guys will just see how he goes about his business and how he interacts with people, how professional he is. It’s definitely going to rub off."- Royals manager Matt Quatraro
Royals fans will be quick to turn on Bradley if he struggles early this season. The 32-year-old will have a short leash, due to his temporary status and long history of previous struggles. Nonetheless, Bradley could be a starter more than expected in 2023.