Rotoworld prospect guru Nate Stephens on Jay Bruce's fantasy outlook:
It's not often the game's best prospect gets called to the majors, and that rumbling sound you hear is every fantasy owner stampeding to their waiver wire to see if he's available. In most leagues he's going to have been stashed away since this spring, but he's also been dropped in some leagues while others don't allow for minor league pickups. Throw in the fact that I'm already receiving e-mails asking what his trade value is, and Bruce's callup is still worth a deep look.
The 12th pick in the 2005 draft, Bruce showed excellent power potential in Rookie ball immediately after signing. He predictably opened the 2006 campaign at Single-A Dayton, and the Reds decided to play it conservative and keep him there all season despite good production. Bruce hit an impressive .291/.355/.516 with a solid 106/44 K/BB, but what was most impressive was that he hit a whopping 63 extra-base hits in 444 at-bats. Only 15 of them were homers, but Bruce was so young and had such a quick, powerful stroke that he oozed the potential to drive more over the fence as he filled out.
The 6'3", 210-pound left-hander seemed poised for an excellent 2007 campaign, yet he still managed to exceed expectations. Bruce started the season at High-A for 67 games, spent just 16 games in Double-A, and finished the season with 50 games for Triple-A Louisville. The quick advancement was made possible by his excellent productivity, as Bruce posted a .319/.375/.587 line overall with an OPS no less than 925 at each level. Included in that excellent season was 26 homers, 8 triples, and 46 doubles in 511 at-bats, giving him a fantastic extra-base hit percentage of greater than 15%. Still just 20 years old, it wasn't hard to fathom Bruce continuing to add power and delivering even more balls over the fence.
The Reds gave Bruce a chance to earn the center field job this spring, but he was sent to the minors with Corey Patterson on the roster. Bruce did struggle some early in April, and since the Reds aren't contenders anyway there was little harm in delaying his arbitration clock. The left-hander eventually turned things around in April and is now on fire in May, giving him a .364/.393/.630 line overall. The only chink in Bruce's armor is his strikeouts. He was punched out 135 times last season, and was already at 45 in 49 games this season. While he's not a .360 hitter, Bruce squares the bat on the ball so well and with such force that he should be forecasted to beat his expected batting average based on those strikeouts. In fact, he's always managed such high BABIPs that I wouldn't be surprised if he hit .300 as a rookie even while striking out so often, much like how Ryan Braun and Hunter Pence did last season.
With super-two concerns behind them, Bruce should be up in the major leagues for good. He'll take Corey Patterson's job in center field, and since he's adept at handling left-handed pitching there shouldn't be any reason to platoon him. Maybe he'll hit .260 with good power and a handful of steals, but Bruce may well be the best player in the majors at some point during his career and the absolute elite level players sometimes translate right away. As a result, a .300-20-60 type of debut can't be ruled out. With a talent this good, I frankly wouldn't be looking to deal him, even if I was set at outfield. If he blows up, you'll get more by waiting. If he doesn't, you were already set at outfield. Give him a month or two and re-evaluate. Either way, he needs to be owned in all leagues.
Yahoo fantasy has had a love fest with Jay Bruce for quite some time. They've featured him daily, including the following Matt Romig quote from last night's performance:
Here's a quick rundown of Jay Bruce's first big league at bat:
Announced to a standing ovation
Receives a "Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce" serenade.
Walks on four pitches.
Ok now that's respect.
Some quick facts about the game that officially ushered in the Jay Bruce era in Cincinnati:
-He hit second between Jerry Hairston Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr. Note that manager Dusty Baker says that "right now" the third spot belongs to Junior. Figure that slot is Bruce's shortly after Griffey hits No. 600 and gets traded.
-He picked up a pair of singles, both to the opposite field, one off righty starter Ian Snell and one off lefty reliever Damaso Marte.
-His seventh-inning double short-hopped the right field wall to give him his final line: 3 AB, 3 H, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB. Not bad. Better than projected, even.
-One nitpick: His stolen base came on the back end of a double steal and wouldn't even be in the books if Jose Bautista hadn't bobbled the throw.
As of Sunday, Bruce was owned in about 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues. That figure should be closer to, say, 100 percent. Before you accuse the Arcade of overreacting to a splashy debut, please remember that the buy order was already in place before Tuesday's first pitch.
Baseball America's prospect expert Jim Callis on an ESPN.com chat today (copied and pasted via the Reds heavy coverage at twinkilling.com):
Brett (Lexington, KY): Bruce or Hamilton?
Jim Callis: Bruce.
Phil (Grand Rapids): (Dodgers pitching phenom Clayton) Kershaw or Bruce if you are starting a team?
Jim Callis: Bruce.
Baseball Prospectus 2008 pre-season annual:
Perhaps the top prospect in all of baseball, Bruce is certainly the top dog in the Reds' organization. He's been playing center in the minors and holding his own, but his bat will play anywhere; he tallied 80 extra-base hits across tree levels in 2007. Bruce won't be old enough to buy a drink in most major league cities until after the season starts, but if he's not patrolling some portion of the Cincinnati outfield by then, it won't be because of his performance. The kid is ready, and the Hamilton deal creates an opening.
. . .
Bruce has consistently exceeded expectations to the point that he's now the best prospect in the game. When his senior year began, he was just a very good, athletic high school outfielder in Texas who most thought would end up somewhere around a third-round pick. However, between a strong senior showing and some impressive private workouts, he ended up as the 12th overall pick in the draft.
Going into the Midwest League in 2006, he was overshadowed by Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin, but far outplayed them both and walked away with league MVP honors. Despite huge expectations going into 2007, Bruce moved through the system faster than expected, and by year's end the Reds had traded Josh Hamilton to open a full-time spot for him in the big leagues. Bruce won't turn 21 until just after Opening Day, but he has nothing left to prove in the minors; he can do it all. Think about Larry Walker and how great he was when he was healthy. That's Jay Bruce.