>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:
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.
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