clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Updating the Top 100: Jay Bruce

Is he a disappointment to past expectation, or a prologue to future glory?

This blast won a game against the Astros.  I will miss the Astros.
This blast won a game against the Astros. I will miss the Astros.
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

71. Jay Bruce

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
2008-2012 RF 89 45 59
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 2012 Never
82% 18% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
All Star – 2011, 2012
Silver Slugger – 2012

-12th in career slugging pct
-17th in career home runs
-43rd in career OPS+
-46th in career walks
-49th in career RBI

It’s easy, at least in my head, to look at Jay Bruce’s stat line and become a bit disappointed. This is the former #1 prospect in baseball, now a major league veteran of five seasons, who has never topped an 850 OPS, never driven in 100 runs, and who has basically plateaued in his career progression over the last three years.

On the other hand, let’s take a step back for a moment. Bruce has 134 home runs prior to his 26th birthday, which means he’ll be a strong candidate for 500 when it’s all said and done. Once upon a time, there was some research showed that the biggest "leap year" for players tended to fall upon players who were "age 26 with experience". Perhaps there’s new research that discounts that old saw, I don’t know. But if I were putting money down, and barring injury, I’d say that 2013 sees Bruce score and drive in over 100, bop over 40, and OPS over 900. And then get better from there. Those are big milestone numbers, to be sure, but none are too far removed from where we are now.

There are some mixed messages below the surface, of course. Bruce’s power took a big step forward in 2012, masked somewhat by a worsening contact rate and a down year, BABIP-wise. Similarly, his walk rate dropped a bit, although it’s still well above average. I don’t want to discount the possibility that being part of a spotty offensive unit, marked by Votto-absence and baserunner deficiencies, may have led to a bit of pressing by Bruce, supported somewhat by quantitative evidence of a freer swing for the fences. One would like to think that Uncle Walt’s three biggest offseason priorities will be finding a viable on-base guy, healing any lingering Joey-knee issues, and having the IT guy fix the lineup chip in Dusty-o-tronic. All three will help Bruce see better pitches with more guys on base.

One note of realism: it appears that Bruce’s 2010 season in the field is the outlier. He is not a rightfielder with the range of a good centerfielder, but more likely an average-ish rightfielder. It’s not quite ideal, but certainly serviceable.

The Votto window is now the Bruce window. Five seasons in which to capitalize on a quality batter’s peak. At least one of those years will see a BABIP spike, in which the batting average is at or around .300, and when that happens, Bruce’ll be an MVP candidate. If it coincides with Votto being Votto-esque, this will be the best team in baseball. Since 2007 or 2008, we’ve considered Bruce to be the one who will bring this team to the promised land. He still is.

In five seasons with the Reds, Bruce has compiled a hitting line of .255/.330/.483 (113 OPS+). He has raised his annual home run mark every year, and now has a cumulative 134 round-trippers. He has done the same thing with RBI, and has totaled 376 in all.

Jay Bruce is now a member of the team’s top 100, currently sitting at #71, up from #124 last year. Shortstop Billy Myers (1935-40) has fallen out as a result. Bruce also rises on the list of team rightfielders, climbing from #13 to #6.

The Top 15 Rightfielders in Reds history

1 Ken Griffey
2 Ival Goodman
3 Mike Mitchell
4 Curt Walker
5 Reggie Sanders
6 Jay Bruce*

7 Dusty Miller
8 Paul O’Neill
9 Dave Parker
10 Greasy Neale
11 Wally Post
12 Sam Crawford
13 Johnny Wyrostek
14 Tommy Harper
15 Dave Collins