I read this post the other day at Baseball Musings where David Pinto suggests that Jay Bruce should bat lead-off and it's been reverberating in my head ever since. I think Pinto's reasoning for the post is a little off. He says, "Jay collects a ton of hits and walks, giving him .376 OBP. He doesn’t hit for much power, so he’s a run scorer, with 27 runs scored and 18 driven in." I think we all know that Bruce does hit for power, though he hasn't shown it much yet this year. I think Pinto likely just looked at this year's stats and didn't think about Bruce's historical numbers.
However, I kind of like the idea of Bruce batting lead-off. I think he's still short on power because of the wrist injury - typically it takes over a year before the power returns - so it may not be a bad idea to change his role in the lineup. Bruce's plate discipline has improved dramatically. He's swinging MUCH less at pitches outside of the strike zone (just 21% according to FanGraphs, which puts him the top 20% in the majors). The result has been a very good 14% walk rate as well as much more solid contact than we saw last year from Bruce.
Bruce isn't a speedster, but he is a very good base runner, as has already been pointed out on this site. He's also 5 of 6 so far on stolen base attempts, which is enough to be considered a threat.
I know at this point the Reds probably don't need to worry too much about moving the lineup around. Orlando Cabrera has done a fine job in the lead-off spot, hitting .333/.382/.406 in 15 games in the first spot in the order. However, I think batting Bruce lead-off is something that is worth Dusty keeping in the back of his mind. I think it is unlikely for Cabrera to keep hitting at the rate he's hit at in the top spot (his BABIP there is .371), so when he starts to slip, Bruce might be a good candidate to move up. If he continues to take walks like he has, and if his power hasn't come back yet, he'd be a good guy to have getting on base in front of Joey Votto and Scott Rolen.
What do you think? Would Bruce make a good lead-off hitter this year?