If we’re not careful, we might start taking Jackie Bradley Jr. for granted.
The Boston Red Sox center fielder is one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball, and he arguably has one of the best gloves of this generation.
He offered the latest reminder of that Sunday night when he made a jaw-dropping leaping catch to rob New York Yankees phenom Aaron Judge of a home run.
Those sorts of highlights have become old habit for Bradley who should have a few Gold Gloves in his trophy room by the time his career is over.
And while it certainly was one of Bradley’s best, he doesn’t think it was the top grab of his already stellar defensive career.
“I don’t really have a ranking system, but I wouldn’t say it was the most difficult catch I’ve ever made,” he told reporters, per the Boston Herald. “But I guess given the situation and the timing, it’s pretty high up there.”
We, however, do have a very unscientific, very arbitrary ranking system. So here are JBJ’s best catches, ranked.
7. April 18, 2016 — Takes it off the ground vs. Toronto’s Troy Tulowitzki
Again, Bradley he has to run what seems like a mile to even reach the ball, but the level of difficulty goes up a notch when he’s able to keep the ball from hitting the grass while simultaneously protecting it as he finishes the dive.
6. July 6, 2014 — Bradley introduces himself to Manny Machado
It wasn’t the prettiest route to the baseball, but Bradley made up for it with an acrobatic save.
5. July 27, 2014 — Bradley runs down Evan Longoria’s gap shot
It’s hard to really grasp how far Bradley went to run down this ball in the gap, and it’s even more amazing when you consider that he has to make that read in a split second. If he doesn’t turn and take off as soon as the ball leaves the bat, he doesn’t make the catch. It’s the perfect combination of preparation, instincts and raw physical ability.
4. Aug. 8, 2014 — Look out for that wall
Reckless abandon can often leads to the best defensive plays. Not only did Bradley have to run forever just to have a chance to catch Howie Kendrick’s drive, but he already has reached full speed by the time he tracks it down. The only problem with that, of course, is all of that culminates with him meeting the wall. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of this entire play is how Bradley slightly rotates his wrist in order to protect the ball (and his wrist) as he crashes into the wall.
3. July 16, 2017 — All rise
We’ll take Bradley’s word that it’s not the best of his career, but it certainly is up there, especially given the situation: late in a game against the Yankees, with Aaron Judge at the plate in a pretty crucial July game in front of a national TV audience.
2. July 9, 2014 — Lays out to rob Tyler Flowers
When you make a catch that looks like it’s something out of “Angels In the Outfield,” you know you’ve made an insane grab.
1. May 19, 2017 — Robs Ryon Healy of a walk-off home run
Perhaps there’s some recency bias toward the top of this list. And given the situation — ninth inning, tie game — Bradley and the rest of the Boston outfield were playing deep. But man, he timed the leap perfectly, robbing Ryon Healy of what would have been the game-winning home run. Given the level of difficulty (look how tall that wall is) and the situation, this takes the top spot.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images