Jay Bruce came into the major leagues in 2008 with a lot of hype. The Reds outfielder hit very well at all levels of the minor leagues and came into the major leagues in 2008 and hit 21 home runs in 413 at-bats. Bruce injured his wrist trying to make a diving catch in July last season and didn’t return until September. His numbers last year won’t make anyone go crazy to draft him. But if you examine the numbers closely, Bruce made strides.
Bruce hit .223 with 47 runs, 22 home runs and 58 RBIs and a 75/38 K/BB ratio in 345 at-bats. The .223 average might make some people shy away from Bruce, but Bruce had a very low .222 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). He had a .298 BABIP in 2008, so expect his average to rise. He hit .254 in 2008, but he was just 21.
Here are some of the encouraging signs. His walk rate improved from 7.4 percent to 9.9 percent. His strikeout rate dropped from 26.6 percent to 21.7 percent. His line drive rate fell from 21.1 percent to 13 percent, while his fly ball rate rose from 34.2 percent to 48.5 percent. Hitting more fly balls probably led to a lower BABIP, but .222 is still very low and likely due to bad luck.
The main concern for Bruce is hitting lefthanders. He hit .210 off them last season, but he had success against them in the minor leagues. It’s not a major concern yet since the sample size in the majors is so small.
There’s still some potential for some stolen bases based on his minor league track record. He has just seven stolen bases in 16 attempts in the majors, but had 37 stolen bases in 54 attempts.
The bottom line is Bruce made progress last year. He walked more, struck out less and swung at fewer bad pitches. Bruce, who will turn 23 in April, is someone that you want to target this year.
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