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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flavor (Hater) of the Week: Jay Bruce

Last week, Clayton Kershaw, considered by many to be the top pitching prospect in baseball, was the fantasy flavor of the week. Today the Reds made waves by bringing up the best hitting prospect in the minors, Jay Bruce. Upon his call up, Bruce was hitting .364 (Batting Average)/.393 (On-Base Percentage)/.630 (Slugging Percentage) with 10 homers and 37 RBI in 49 games at Triple-A. Immediately, my attention is drawn toward the miniscule differential between Bruce's batting average and OBP. 30 points? Is that it? I mean obviously this kid's knocking the cover off the ball in Triple-A, but I can't imagine that translating seamlessly in the majors... it hardly ever does. Which brings me to my problem with his OBP. Can the kid take a few pitches in the minors? He's not going to me getting a hit during every at-bat in the majors, so it's important that he have impeccable strike zone vision. I can't say that I see that through his numbers though.

In an ESPN Fantasy Baseball article, Will Harris notes that "it is too much to ask for him to duplicate Ryan Braun's improbable 2007 rookie season, if anyone has a chance to make that sort of impact this year, it's Bruce." I don't have any major qualms with this position, I only want to point out how out-of-nowhere Braun's rookie campaign was. Looking back at this minor league numbers, his batting average, like Bruce's, was in the high .300's. However, his OBP was always at least .600 points higher than his batting average.  Bruce's Single and Double-A numbers are freakishly in line with those of Braun, however his Triple-A numbers provide a clear differentiation:

Braun (in 34 games): .342/.418/.701

Bruce (in 49 games): ..364/.393/.630

It's uncontested that Bruce puts the bat on the ball more than Braun did in Triple-A, but Braun's recognition between balls and strikes is what made, and continues to make, him so dangerous. Let's face it, MLB pitchers are out to exploit impatient young hitters like Bruce. A young hitter should establish himself as a guy who's willing to take a few pitches and make the pitcher work for an out... not to just swing away because its worked in the past, that just doesn't work.

I think that Bruce is going to make an impact in the majors. He plays in a small enough ballpark and will definitely have some sort of protection in the line up, no matter where he bats. If Joey Votto is any indication of how a transitioning batter reacts in the Reds' line up when called up to the majors, Bruce should definitely be fine.

For fantasy purposes, it's difficult for me to recommend dropping someone for him. I like to see guys work for a spot on my roster before I dump someone proven for a rookie. Not only that, but outfield has been so incredibly deep this season, I would only consider a guy like Bruce in a really deep mixed league, or a league that requires that you start more than 3 OFs a night/week.

In the end, I'd sit on Jay Bruce. If someone picks him up... good for them. Let Bruce prove you wrong on someone else's roster rather than having you suffer through the growing pains of a young hitter. Try to remember that Ryan Braun doesn't happen every year... the odds are in your favor.


9 comments:

Kay said...

He's already walked twice tonight.

bfadds said...

haha, I saw that... I was watching his first AB and saw him take a four-pitch walk, good for him either way.

Honestly though, you can't help but look at those numbers and think to yourself, "hey I'm gonna need to get on base anyway possible... not just by swinging." He did that tonight, who knows if he'll keep it up... I'll cross my fingers for him.

Mike Plugh said...

Guess who picked him up two weeks ago? Moi.

Voila. Debuts with a 3-3 night, including two walks, a double, and a stolen base.

I love to be right. First on Kershaw and now on Bruce. Sah-weet. My keepers on an 8 player keeper team are now:

David Wright
Howie Kendrick
Jay Bruce

Daisuke Matsuzaka
Tim Lincecum
Joba Chamberlain
Francisco Liriano
David Price

I have pitching locked up for the next 10 years with that bunch and have Phil Hughes and Clayton Kershaw on standby in case Liriano shows no improvement.

bfadds said...

Well the only thing of interest to me in your crop of youthful talent is Liriano...

When is he coming back, Mike? I expect you to work the magic that you did with Kershaw and Bruce and make that man a major league caliber pitcher again, and fast.

Mike Plugh said...

"Well the only thing of interest to me in your crop of youthful talent is Liriano..."

I'm not sure I follow you? You mean storyline? David Wright and Howie Kendrick should both be perennial All Stars. Lincecum, Chamberlain, and Price are virtual locks at the All Star Game. The other guys have the same kind of upside with a few extra question marks. Liriano has as much talent as Johan Santana. At this point it's a matter of health. That's all that's ever stopped him to this point.

By the way, through 5 innings Jay Bruce has a double, a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored. Two steals in a game and a half, four hits including two doubles....sweet.

Mike Plugh said...

Bruce walked in his next at bat making him 4-5 with 3 walks, 2 doubles, 2 steals, 3 runs, and 2 RBI in less than 2 games. He's only made one out so far, and been on base 7 times!!

bfadds said...

Sorry Mike, what I meant was that I have Liriano on my fantasy team...

...he's only of interest to me because I put all of my faith in him after one of our discussions earlier in the year (whether I should try and trade him while his hype was at it's peak).

haha, story lines are interesting to me, as you know, but I am more obsessed with satisfying my ego by winning fantasy games (which is becoming more and more difficult each week-- I'm missing both Furcal and Posada right now).

As for Jay Bruce: I'm only happy that:

(a) he's doing this for you and
(b) he's not doing it against me, haha.

Mike Plugh said...

Heh. I hope for both of us that Liriano comes back to form. I LOVE that guy's stuff. However....

More than Liriano, I have a super man crush on David Price, who will be the next great ace in baseball. I guarantee it. Liriano is 1A to Price's A. Check out the latest A Ball start for Price and his opponent's comments. Then look at the box score. Kershaw is a nice #1 type pitcher, but make no mistake about it, the guy you should be rushing to get hold of before it's too late is Price.

http://tinyurl.com/5g2cna

bfadds said...

I was reading about him more after he made A-Rod look silly in an extended Spring Training game a week ago. I think that maybe I'll wait for him to make it to Double-A first (famous last words)