It is no surprise that more than one member of the 2014 Cincinnati Reds have appeared in this rebound series. The Reds were arguably the big disappointment in baseball this season and Jay Bruce may have led that charge. In prior years, Bruce epitomized what I look for in a top 40 draft pick. He offered consistency and power. In 2014, Jay Bruce just provided his owners with disappointment and a paltry .654 OPS.
Why Jay Bruce will rebound:
Prior to 2014, Bruce was a model of consistency that provided 30 home runs, 100 RBI’s, and 80 runs. A 30/100 guy is a great player to build around and Bruce put up those numbers as a third or fourth round draft pick. Going into 2014, Jay Bruce seemed to be a sure bet to be worth his ADP.
His career .251/.323/.467 keeps Jay Bruce from being a fantasy superstar, but he was a lock to be one of the top 50 players from 2010 to 2013. That level of consistency made him more than worthy of a draft pick right around 35 because he was so unlikely to bust.
This season proved almost everyone wrong as the offense of the Cincinnati Reds was an absolute disaster. Despite tremendous seasons from Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, the Reds were near or even at the bottom in a large portion of offensive statistics. Outside of Joey Votto, Jay Bruce was the biggest disappointment among Cincinnati hitters.
While the previous paragraph sounds negative, it shows how fast everything fell apart for the Reds and how they could rebound just as quickly. They are only one year removed from a great lineup and Frazier and Mesoraco made great strides in 2014.
Jay Bruce was very productive in all prior seasons of his career. From his debut in 2008 to 2012, Jay Bruce increased his home run total in every single season. In fact, 21 homers in 2008 was Bruce’s previous career low as a rookie in only two-thirds of a season. The past seven seasons have proven his unquestionable power even if he only hit 18 bombs in 2014.
Up through 2013, Jay Bruce seemed to improve every year in most fantasy categories. With only a few exceptions, Bruce tended to increase his run, home run, and RBI totals as you can clearly see in this table:
[table id=1298 /]
Of course, Bruce would not continue to improve those stats forever, but he seemed to solidify himself as a virtual lock for 30/100. My logic that Bruce will rebound is that he has a very large sample size of strong play and he is currently in his prime at 27.
Ultimately, Jay Bruce will not get any worse unless he falls into the Dan Uggla spiral of awfulness. I have seen too much of Bruce to believe that he mysteriously lost his ability to play baseball at a Major League level. I think Bruce returns to 25+ homers and hits at least .240/.320/.450 in a bit of a rebound season for him and the Cincinnati Reds.
Why Jay Bruce may fail:
He looked lost at the plate. Outside of a career high of 12 steals, Jay Bruce was terrible offensively. His numbers were down in virtually every category. Bruce’s 0.30 BB/K in 2014 is the worst of his career. He struck out more frequently, walked less, hit for a lower average, and hit for less power.
The .217/.281/.373 is atrocious and the .654 OPS is significantly worse than his career .790 OPS. The scary thing about Bruce is that he looked to be a shell of himself in 2014. The fact that he regressed so much is always a cause for concern, but it also represents the chance to buy him at a discount.
Jay Bruce will always strikeout frequently, which can be evidenced by his career K rate of 24.5%, but his strikeout rate has risen every season since 2009. Bruce fanned 19.4% of the time in 2009, but that number was up to 27.3% this past season. It is hard to hit for a decent average when over a quarter of the at-bats end with a slow walk back to the dugout.
While I do think Jay Bruce will show some sort of life in 2015 and rebound to an extent, I do not think that he will play at his 2010 to 2013 level next year. Furthermore, I am not confident that his draft stock has dropped enough to justify the once safe draft pick.