Jay Bruce
2012 Slash Line: .252/.327/.514
2013 Projection: .265/.340/.520

2012 WAR: 2.4
2013 Best Guess WAR: 3.5
Projected Difference: +1.1
2013 Floor: 2.0
2013 Ceiling: 8.0

Jay Bruce is one tough nut to crack. He still has all that potential and, at 26, he’s still young (younger than every other member of the starting 8 unless you count Devin Mesoraco). But, you know, he’s never exactly put it together. What he has done is progress, albeit slowly.

When projecting Bruce, his fielding is the big questions. The various metrics seem to agree that he was pretty awesome in 2010 and pretty mediocre the last two years. The truth, as is typically the case with these metrics, is probably some where in between. We should figure him as an average to maybe slightly above average fielder. That’s all I’m going to say on that. You all have your own opinions on his fielding and we know defense is hard to value.

What everyone really cares about is hit bat. Jay Bruce hit ball hard. Or, at least, that’s the basic hope. My perception following the Reds last year was that he was more consistent. Oh sure, he had his streaks, but they didn’t seem to be as exaggerated as they often are. Looking at his splits seems to confirm that as he was average or better as a hitter every month in 2012. Still, it sums to pretty much who he has been for the last several years. A good, but not great player.

But there’s still that potential. His ceiling is still really high and 26 is the age when many players really break out, so there’s hope. But these posts aren’t about hope, they’re about what we can reasonably expect and in my opinion (and most of the projections agree with me). Bruce should show some modest improvement simply because he is still on the right side of the aging curve and produce 3-4 wins for the Reds. His floor is nice and high. He’d be an average player at 2 wins. His ceiling is an MVP trophy. Reality is probably in the middle.

Redleg Nation Season Preview Schedule

Joey Votto – 2/27
Brandon Phillips – 3/1
Todd Frazier – 3/4
Zack Cozart – 3/6
Ryan Ludwick – 3/8
Shin-Soo Choo – 3/11
Jay Bruce – 3/13
Ryan Hanigan & Catcher #2 – 3/15
Bench – 3/18
Johnny Cueto & Mat Latos – 3/20
Aroldis Chapman & Mike Leake – 3/22
Homer Bailey & Bronson Arroyo – 3/25
Bullpen – 3/27
Updates & Preview Wrap-Up – 3/29

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 22 Comments

  1. Bruce is the Reds offensive version of Homer Bailey. He was drafted and hailed as having tons and tons of potential, future all star, possible triple crown threat, etc. He just hasn’t lived up to those lofty expectations yet. However, he’s still a pretty good piece to have in right field and at bat.

    Defensively, he may not get to as many balls as other fielders, but base runners WILL respect his arm. That is an intangible that is hard to measure, holding runners just on reputation alone.

    Offensively, he will probably hit .300 someday. I think his ceiling is something like Joey Votto with less contact and more power.

    I think these next two seasons, we will witness the blossoming of Jay Bruce into the player he will be. And in the meantime, they player he already is is still pretty good.

    • Another good preview article by Jason.

      I hope Jay Bruce can finally win a Gold Glove and win a second Silver Slugger Award in 2013.

      @CI3J: I agree with your Bruce/Bailey comparison. Both came to the majors with extremely high expectations that were almost impossible to meet. On the other hand Bailey just had a breakout season mostly, in my opinion, because he was able to stay healthy, while to me some sort of breakout season by Jay Bruce, at this point, seems unlikely. Maybe he can boost his homerun totals a bit, maybe he can raise his average 10 or 20 points, but unlike with Homer Bailey last year I think we’ve already got a pretty good idea of what Jay Bruce offers.

      I don’t think Jay Bruce will be a .300 hitter or comparable to Joey Votto in that way. At this point I think he should be building for a season like Jose Bautista put up in 2010 – .260 average and 54 homeruns.

      • @redsfanman: Well, ‘building for’ might have been the wrong term – more like I think Bruce should target Jose Bautista rather than Joey Votto as a target to compete with or if he hopes to become a superstar. Bruce hits for more power than Votto but doesn’t make contact as much, and I don’t think that aspect of his hitting will change too much.

  2. It’s a shame that Bruce was rushed to the majors early in his career. I think that being deprived of those years in the minors is the major culprit of his struggles at times. He’s still a good player, with streaks of pure greatness. I really hope this year is the year that he takes one of those red hot streaks, and is able to maintain it for a longer period, eating up some of that slump… because when he’s completely on (May ’11 anyone?), it’s pretty hard to find anyone better.

    That said, Bruce is the main reason why I am glad they’re making Billy Hamilton take the Votto route to the majors rather than having rushed him up after that 103 SB season in ’11.

  3. I think he could hit that many homeruns redsfanman…

    I also think that he could hit 30 points higher if he chose to hit to left like Joey Votto does. He could be a 300 hitter. but you won’t unless you are Stan the Man or Barry Bonds only hitting to 2 fields.

    I love Jay, and will give a standing O the day he bunts to 3rd and walks to first base when the shift occurs. He should do it every time just like Joey takes the walks that they give him. They are giving Jay first base and he needs to take it because when they play him honestly, those hard hit balls to the right that are right at the 3 infielders standing there, become hits.

    With this team, he needs to step up and take what the other team gives him. That is how this team will win a championship

    • @reaganspad: 30 points higher is .282 though, not .300. Hitting .300 is a 48 point boost to batting average and I think that’d be pretty tough at this point.

      • @redsfanman:
        He never said Bruce would get to 300. Reagan only said he felt Bruce could hit 30 points higher. No need to mention hitting 300 to Reagan making him look bad.

  4. I have the same opinion on both Bruce and Bailey. Both guys were rushed to the majors too quickly and both needed further seasoning.

    For Bruce, it was his plate discipline. He had that hot first week or two when guys were trying to throw fastballs by him. Then the league realized that they could throw pitches out of the zone up there and he would chase. He relies more on anticipating a particular pitch and for that, he needs to get ahead in the count. He’s still learning to do that on a consistent basis. He doesn’t appear to have the pitch recognition and on the fly adjustments to the pitch speed and trajectory like someone like Votto does (few do). He will sometimes also make up his mind when he’s up 2-0 that he’s going to swing because he expects a fastball. Pitchers know this and it often leads to an off-balance miss. Votto has indicated that his extra time in the minors made him a seasoned hitter who was ready to hit the ground running when he came up. Refining his pitch selection and pitch recognition probably had something to do with that, something Bruce didn’t get to do much prior to his arrival in 2008. He has had to use a few of his big league seasons to improve in that aspect.

    In the case of Bailey, he came up throwing rather than pitching and has made great strides of late.

    Both guys were what, 20 and 21 when they came up? This is why we need to be patient with guys like Hamilton.

  5. There is only one JB in Reds lore, Johnny Bench. But I think we can stick a moniker on Bruce as JB2, sort of like the Redskins RG3. JB2 did show some improvement at the plate last year. He reduced the number of times flailing away against LH pitching. He started to hit to LF a little more than before. He needs to keep doing so. His defense also improved over 2011. He seemed like he was afraid of hitting the wall and just didn’t look very good fielding fly balls to the wall. He was excellent last year from June on with his defense.
    Reagan is right, if he takes what the other team gives him it would only benefit JB2 and the Reds this year.
    If JB2 hits .282 this year that would be super. If he is doing that well, that could only mean the Reds are doing well.

  6. I don’t feel Bruce was rushed quite as bit as others. His last year in the minors, he was the minor player of the year for the entire minor league system, not just the Reds, and rated the #1 prospect in the entire minor league system. I may have tried to slow him down one season. But, the way he was killing the ball in the minors, it would have been hard to slow him down any. It seems like, though, they didn’t teach him any of the more subtle nuances of the game, like work on him hitting the opposite way more and more bunting, maybe challenge him playing a second outfield position, since that may had been needed at some point in time, like now.

    But, given how he slammed the ball in the minors, I haven’t seen anything like that from him here. I believe it may be a bit from seeing that short right field fence at GABP, that he just has to try to pull the ball over it. Teams start to see him do that, they learn to pitch him outside, which they have been doing for years with Bruce, and Bruce still hasn’t learned to either stay off of it or how to hit the other way.

    I agree with some saying if he ever learns to hit the other way or lay off that outside pitch, he could very well be MVP caliber. I don’t mean he will win the MVP, redsfanman. I mean as in I could see him getting MVP votes if he ever learns it, like when Rolen got MVP votes in 2010.

    • @steveschoen:
      Given Bruce still hasn’t learned to hit the opposite way, I still don’t feel he has broken out. If he doesn’t make the adjustment, then we will have exactly what he is. Still good, but could easily get loads better just putting a little work in it.

      • @steveschoen: i know that’s been the popular opinion, and i’ve said it many times before myself. but after watching bruce hit last year, i just don’t know that his swing is really built to go the other way.

        he’s got such a natural power stroke, i think that he actually got a little out of whack trying to hit to left at the beginning of the season. bruce hit well over .300 in the minors hitting to center and right, and i think that may just be his game.

        i like the idea of bunting from time to time against the shift, and i like the jose bautista comp.

        • @al:
          Oh, I can understand if that’s what he is. But, then, that will be what we’ve been getting, nothing more. For, the other teams will still be pitching to him outside, letting him to exactly what he is doing now. I think his stroke becomes a bit out of whack trying to pull those outside pitches too much.

  7. I don’t think Bruce was rushed to the majors. He killed minor league pitching. It’s hard to develop when you’re that much better than everyone else.

    I think the hard part for a lot of people has been watching Bruce develop at the Major League level. He wasn’t challenged anywhere else so that’s where it had to happen.

    • @Jason Linden: Exactly… And I think you’ve got Bruce pretty much pegged. We can expect about the same or a slight uptick of production from Bruce assuming he’s healthy and he follows a normal aging progression. I have Bruce at .261/.340/.517, matching your slash-line projection as near as makes no difference.

  8. Bruce is a great clubhouse guy. He a big piece of the chemistry of the team. And his Fancave Silver Slugger joke was MEAN, but hysterical.

  9. Now, Bailey was a different story. He never had as much success in the minors as Bruce did. Also, from what I can remember, the Reds had a tremendous lack of pitching at the time and looking for almost anything, thus rushing Bailey up here. They should have taken most anything else than rush Bailey up.

    I don’t think Bailey’s injuries had anything to do directly with him being rushed, though. But, his lack of success when called up would be directly due to him being rushed up.

  10. I predict that Bruce’s WAR will vary during the year more than just about anyone in MLB. Where it stands when the music stops in October…who knows!

  11. Best guess WAR Zach Cozart 3.5
    Best guess WAR Jay Bruce 3.5
    I don’t know….I understand the different output expected at each position, but still, that is pretty much saying the best guess is that the value of each player is equal. Considering the hit each player has on the payroll, that would make Cozart’s expected value to be higher than Bruce’s. I just don’t see it.

    • @Pete Snow: Well, first off, Cozart hasn’t even hit arbitration yet, so in terms of cost, it’s not a fair argument. Second, players get paid more or less than they’re worth all the time. The market isn’t perfect. Third, defense matters. It might be hard to measure, but it matters a lot and shortstops provide a lot more defensive value than right fielders. The majority of Cozart’s value comes from defense, while Bruce gets dinged a little because he plays right field.

  12. I understand your point about the value of defense, and I realize that cost doesn’t factor into WAR. I was just musing that it seems you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would value Cozart as equal to Bruce, going into the season. Maybe I’m wrong, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

  13. BTW, I very much enjoy reading your posts, Jason.

Comments are closed.

About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.


2013 Reds