In Cincinnati, the two names you’ll most likely see on the backs of people’s Red’s shirts is Votto or Phillips. But, another player who has been on the rise in the past couple seasons has been Bruce, Jay Bruce. Bruce has been the starting right fielder for Cincinnati since 2008. Bruce has been steadily increasing his numbers the past few years, and now at almost 27 years old is in the prime of his career and set to have a MVP-esque season.
Defensively, Bruce is stellar. He can twist and turn and out run any ball that comes near him out in right field. He has a cannon of an arm and if you’re thinking of trying to score on a long single to right field from second, you better think again. Bruce throws out runners with ease with his strong arm. His defense has never been the question, but his impatience and inconsistency at the plate is what has been holding him back from being a star.
In the past three seasons, Bruce has found some consistency in home runs and RBIs. He has hit 30+ home runs and batted in 90+ runs each year since the 2011 season. Bruce’s problem at the plate is that he has not had much success working the count into a hitter’s count. He tends to find himself down 1-2 or 0-2 too often and pitchers have been able to take advantage of this, striking him out. Bruce has acknowledged that he needs to work pitchers into hitters counts, and points towards his impatience as to why he has a hard time doing so.
If Jay Bruce can put together an outstanding year at the plate, it would do wonders for a Reds offense that needs some spark after the departure of Shin Soo-Choo to the Texas Rangers and just an overall disappointing performance in the final quarter of last season.
If new manager Bryan Price gets creative and decides to switch up the batting order this season, he would be smart to make the top of the order Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick or Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips at the clean up spot. Hamilton will get on base, Votto can hit him in, and with Jay Bruce occasionally following Votto, pitchers would have a fit. Back-to-back power hitting left handers will be hard on pitchers. If Bruce can get on base, then Phillips would be up next to hit him in. That’s a lot of RBIs for the top of the Reds line up. Bruce and Ludwick could be interchangeable in the third hole, switching between the third and fifth spots depending on who they are facing on the mound that day. Switching betweens the third and fifth spots would give Bruce the flexibility of being able to accumulate some RBIs and then once in the third hole he would make life difficult for the opposing pitcher.
If Bruce can start producing Votto-like MVP numbers, the Reds will have to offensively stout power lefties to work with. Bruce and Votto could be a deadly combo, and I think Bryan Price sees that and will use new batting orders to play to that power.