Jay Bruce Player Projection No. 64

Key Stats: Say what you will about Great American Ballpark being a haven for power hitters (it was the number three best park for home runs in the big leagues last season according to ESPN Park Factors), but Jay Bruce was just as lethal on the road last year. He hit 16 home runs at home and 16 on the road. Bruce finished the season ranked as the 59th overall player in the Yahoo system, and is only going to be 25 this season. He could be a dangerous player as he moves toward his prime.

Skeptics Say: If you are squeamish turn to peer comparison because this is going to get ugly. Take out Bruce’s magnificent May – the month that made him the NL Player of the Month. Here would be a 160-game pace for the rest of his numbers:

Runs

RBI

HR

AVG

OBP

OPS

SB

76

82

25

.236

.322

.733

8

Nick Swisher out-performed Bruce in every category but steals and just barely home runs. In other words, Swisher was essentially a better play than Bruce last year for five out of six months. Yet all the sites below have Bruce as a late third round or early fourth round mixed league option. With an average of .236, I need an assurance of 40 homers or 40 steals before I consider making a pick that high. Bruce has never stolen more than 8 bases or hit more than 32 home runs in a season though.

Peer Comparison: Ryan Braun is scheduled to return to baseball on May 31st. He is appealing his suspension, and of course if he can come back earlier than that date it would add to his value. Given that his case is pretty much unprecedented, it’s hard to gauge how likely his suspension is to be reduced or even entirely forgiven. Let’s assume that Braun comes back after 50 games. Who would you rather own Bruce or Braun?

If Braun can replicate his 2011 season, here are the numbers we could expect in a 110 game season:

Runs

RBI

HR

AVG

OBP

OPS

SB

80

81

24

.332

.397

.994

24

His numbers look better than what is said in the skeptics section for Bruce, but remember those numbers come from the skeptic. The skeptic isn’t taking into account the fact that in his young career Bruce has always been a streaky hitter, and has thus removed the hot streak. Also, Braun’s productivity should be hampered by the loss of Prince Fielder in terms of the pitches he sees and the run scoring opportunities he gets. Given that the appeal still looms, I like Braun. In a head to head league where the playoffs arrive in September, it’s a no-brainer to take Braun.

Team Outlook: The Reds were 7th in all of baseball in runs last season. With the departures of Adrian Gonzalez, Fielder, and Albert Pujols over the last two seasons, Joey Votto is clearly the best hitting first baseman in the National League. Bruce will probably hit fifth behind him and someone like Brandon Phillips or Scott Rolen (it only seems like he’s not retired – I swear) in order for the Reds to go left-right-left in the order.

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #21 Outfielder; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #10 Outfielder & #37 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #13 Outfielder & #39 Overall; RotoChamp: #37 Overall

Projection: On top of establishing a career high in home runs, Bruce also set a career high in doubles. The power is legit, but so is the average. Bruce had a fairly normal .297 BABIP in a years that he hit line drives less than 17% of the time he put it in play.
83 R 33 HR 90 RBI 7 SB .263 AVG .348 OBP .830 OPS