Why Outfielder Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds Will Hit 35 Home Runs in 2010

Nick Kappel@@NickKappelAnalyst IIIMarch 22, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 5: Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds bats in a game against Philadelphia Phillies on June 5, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

In 2008, Jay Bruce ranked among the top prospects in baseball. In fact, Baseball America claimed, “every one of (his) tools is better than average.”

Our friends at BA rated his power as high as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, acknowledged his ability to hit for average, and even proclaimed Bruce capable of stealing 15 to 20 bases a season.

Two years later, Bruce appears primed for stardom, though most fantasy managers don’t realize it.

The 2005 first rounder posted a lowly .223 batting average in 2009, which explains the limited fanfare. What most don’t realize is that Bruce posted the second-lowest BABIP among players with 350-plus plate appearances last season. This suggests an increase in batting average is on the horizon.

If you’re able to buy into the low BABIP theory, there’s no reason to not like this guy. Consider the following:

* The soon-to-be 23-year-old Bruce has averaged 17.6 at-bats between HRs during two seasons at the big league level. Comparatively, Miguel Cabrera owns a career mark of 18.8 at-bats per HR.

* Bruce hit 22 HRs in just 345 at-bats in 2009. Projected over 600 at-bats, his HR total is a whopping 38.

* Despite his unlucky struggles at the plate last season, Bruce increased his walks and decreased his strikeouts from 2008. He also swung less at pitches outside the strike zone and made contact on pitches within the zone at a higher rate.

Despite missing two months last season with a broken wrist, Bruce returned to hit .326 with four long balls and 17 RBI in 18 games upon his late-season return from the DL.

The big lefty has picked up where he left off this spring, totaling two HRs, three steals, and a .333 batting average in 30 at-bats.

Given a full season batting fifth or sixth in the potent Cincinnati lineup, the Texas native appears primed to smash 35 HRs. Baseball statistician Bill James agrees, predicting a lofty 38-HR total.

Bruce’s current ADP on Mock Draft Central is 120, meaning Michael Bourn, Jason Bartlett, and Alexei Ramirez are all being drafted ahead of him. Don’t make this mistake in your drafts; nab the soon-to-be top 50 keeper before it’s too late.

FBI Forecast: 550 at-bats, 75 runs, 35 HRs, 90 RBI, 10 stolen bases, .275 batting average


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