Updating the Top 100; Honorable Mention - Jay Bruce

Honorable Mention: Jay Bruce

The process of writing one of these capsules is generally the same. Open up Baseball Reference, go to the player's page, and then stare at it until some idea arrives. One of the easier avenues is to go to the similarity scores section and see if any thoughts pop up.

Run through these steps for Jay Bruce, and the instant reaction is: Reggie Jackson is Bruce's most comparable player through age 24? That's awesome! Then I begin to dig. The reasons for similarity are clear: both players had exactly 100 home runs through their age 24 season, the accumulated runs + RBI totals are very similar, and many of the other counting stats are reasonably close. Jackson was a slam-dunk hall-of-famer, donchaknow. Of course, before I get too excited, I begin to rationalize. Jackson hit the homers in 200 fewer at-bats in the Age of the Pitcher, had 25% more walks, stole nearly three times as many bases. They're not at all similar, actually. And it seems I've just recreated internally the drama that's been played on the field over the last couple years. The glimpses and the promise are glittering, and then at the end of the year I look at the totals and ask if that's it. I feel guilty for doing so, because he's still the 2nd best player on the team, but wasn't he the #1 prospect in baseball? Isn't he a sure thing, soon to eclipse Votto? Am I only disappointed because of my expectations? I begin to imagine that if a terrible, nationally broadcast morning sports radio program cared about Midwestern baseball, they might put together a song parody about Jay Bruce. They might use a Soundgarden song as their template: "I'm looking Reggie Jackson / And feeling Tom Brunansky".

The facts are that Bruce has now put up back-to-back full seasons in the 120 OPS+ neighborhood. That's good baseball, but it's not growth and it's not a superstar, not in right field. The defense, by all quantifiable metrics, took a sizable step backwards, as well.

The story is rarely fully written for any 24 year old, and the age curve isn't an inevitability, at least in the short term. He is still liable to break out, become the #1a instead of #2, be the face of the franchise. Which is kind of the rub. If the team doesn't make good in the upcoming seasons, Bruce will probably shoulder a good chunk of the blame. It'll be unfair, but most expectations generally are.

Bruce carries a career batting line of 256/331/474 (112 OPS+). He moves from #205 to #124 on the all-time list, and makes his first appearance on the list of the franchise's best rightfielders, knocking out Tommy Griffith.

The Top 15 Rightfielders in Reds history

1 Ken Griffey
2 Ival Goodman
3 Mike Mitchell
4 Curt Walker
5 Reggie Sanders
6 Dusty Miller
7 Paul O'Neill
8 Dave Parker
9 Greasy Neale
10 Wally Post
11 Sam Crawford
12 Johnny Wyrostek
13 Jay Bruce*
14 Tommy Harper
15 Dave Collins
*active

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