Fantasy Baseball: How Jay Bruce Will Become a Five-Category Stud

Dan MalatoCorrespondent IMay 27, 2008

In fantasy sports, players always want to get in on the next big thing. They want to find the hot prospect, the journeyman, the rejuvenated superstar, or the recently healthy player who will carry their team to the championship. Waiver wire positions have been wasted on the likes of Mike MacDougal, Chris Shelton, and countless others, all in hopes of being  in line for greatness.

More often than not, these players fade into oblivion, never to grace fantasy lineups again. But every now and then, a special player arrives that could push a struggling fantasy lineup over the edge. Think Ryan Braun from a year ago.

This season, players have a shot at claiming another such player whose name will not be forgotten any time soon. This player is Jay Bruce, outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds

Bruce is baseball's hottest prospect right now.  Drafted 12th overall out of Louisville in the 2005 draft, he progressed quickly through the Reds' farm system, jumping from Class-A to Triple-A last year. So far this season, he has hit .364 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 49 games. 

With the Reds' outfield struggling to produce so far this year, Bruce will immediately become the starting center fielder, replacing the free-swinging Corey Patterson. Apparently, the Reds had seen enough after Patterson's recent 0-8 stinkbomb against the Padres this past Sunday. 

Fantasy owners have a lot to look forward to with this prospect. Everything this guy does in terms of offensive production is "sexy" (thank you, Talented Mr. Roto). He hits for average, power, and he steals bases. Bruce is a regular five-category powerhouse, one of those elusive players that fantasy owners seek and teenage girls swoon over. 

As shown by his 3-3, 2 RBI, 1 SB, performance last night, Bruce should produce right away. He clearly has power, as shown by his gaudy minor-league statistics from this season. Bruce may not walk much (only 12 walks in 184 at bats this season), but his high batting average and speed—along with big boppers like Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. hitting behind him—should allow him to score plenty of runs this year. 

Expecting a repeat of Ryan Braun's 2007 rookie campaign out of Bruce might be a little much, but his numbers will still make him a welcome contributor to almost any fantasy team. After all, Braun did turn out one of the best offensive seasons by a rookie this side of Albert Pujols over the past 20 years.

Still, Bruce will see consistent playing time on a Reds team that isn't expected to compete for the playoffs this season anyway, so there is not fear of him sitting in favor of a more experienced player. He has an ability to drive the ball that will make him an effective run producer. Hitting near the top of the lineup should also be good for his scoring and stolen-base chances.

If Bruce is still available in your league, do not hesitate to pick him up. Expect around 18 home runs, 60 runs, and 60 RBI, along with 15 steals and a .300 batting average the rest of the way for the young guy in Cincinnati. Enjoy it if you're lucky enough to have him. You might just win a championship in the process.