Monday, November 23, 2009

Jay Bruce

Jay Bruce was one of the hottest prospects in all of baseball, but in two chances, he hasn't been very good, with the exception of power, where he's been decent. 21 and 22 homers in two partial seasons is pretty good, but his average and on-base percentage have been so low he hasn't been very helpful to real life owners or in fantasy. He also displayed good speed in triple-A which hasn't lead to steals on the big stage.

Sabremetrically, he's ok in plate discipline, good if you factor his age into it. The biggest negative is what happens to the ball after he puts it in play. 2008 was a fairly normal, .298 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). In 2009, he struck out less and put more balls in play, but got less hits out of them with a .222 BABIP. Some would call this bad luck, others would just call it bad hitting. In either case, it will almost certainly go up by leaps and bounds, either he will make better contact or get luckier. Bill James projects his batting average to be .274 next year, which would make him quite useful with that power.

It's very common for rookies struggling with the bat not to steal. They don't get on base much and they don't want to chance it when they do. He's not a speed demon, but he will also grab some steals if he gets on base more.

I want to go beyond his stats for a moment, beyond his sabremetrics, and even beyond luck. I want to talk about some factors that make no sense, but are usually true nonetheless. People, especially hitters, under a seemingly magical age of 23 rarely do much. Next year, April, Bruce will turn 23. I have some other rules like this, but I'm not going to try to work them in for Bruce.

In addition to the huge batting average gains, Bill James projects Bruce to hit 38 homers. I'm more inclined to believe his present home run rate will continue, that is, 22 homers in 101 games, or about 34 homers in a full season. In general, I agree that 2010 will be a breakout year for Jay Bruce, at age 23.