As Joey Votto goes under the knife to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, the Cincinnati Reds will continue on without their leader in pursuit of the NL Central crown. What seemed to look like a nice stretch ahead for the Reds—23 of their next 26 games come against teams with losing records—has now seemingly turned into a grind.
The Reds are going to be in need of production from their surrounding cast members and most of this responsibility is going to rest on the shoulders of one, Jay Bruce.
Bruce sent the Reds flying into the 2010 postseason in walk-off fashion, tossed in one of the most remarkable months of any Reds player of all-time during May of last season and began this year on a tear that carried the offense early.
But, after a great April that saw Bruce produce a slash line of .296/.337/.617, he has only managed .228/.312/.453 the rest of the way—covering two and a half months.
This brings us to the present. Jay Bruce leads the team with 57 RBI - eight more than Joey Votto's 49 RBI. But, many have come in non-clutch or unimportant moments in the game. After hitting .298 w/RISP (with runners in scoring position) last season, Bruce maintains a paltry .205 average in the same situations this season.
Now is the time for Jay Bruce to flip the switch from wanna-be star and debatable All-Star, to the super star that all the scouts and other teams think he can be. If the past is any indicator of future performance, the near future looks to be bright—but that's the near future and not the immediate future.
Over the past three seasons combined, Bruce has averaged .280/.365/.571 in August and .280/.382/.514 in September. July has proven however to be his worst month, coming in at .214/.283/.333 over the past three seasons.
Will Jay Bruce be able to step up to the challenge and lead the offense in Votto's absence.
If Bruce were hitting the same .298 w/RISP as he did last season, he would currently have near 75-80 RBI. Jay Bruce only needs to hit .275-.280 overall to be a superstar. The power numbers are there, now they just need to become consistent.
A consistent Jay Bruce more than fills the void of losing Votto for a period of time. Nobody will ever replace Votto, but Bruce has the ability to carry an offense just as Joey Votto does.
What the Cincinnati Reds need at this moment is for their 25 year old right fielder to come of age, to flip the switch, and to be their version of Andrew McCutchen. Just like Bruce, everyone knew that McCutchen had the abilities. When McCutchen flipped the switch to super stardom, the Pittsburgh Pirates leap-frogged Cincinnati into first place and became instant contenders in the NL Central.
Jay Bruce has the potential to be the Reds' savior and the chance to prove he is, and can be, the player that everyone (including himself) expects him to be. The next month is his audition for super stardom—will he rise to the occasion?