Jay Bruce – The Next Dunn or Kearns?

Jay Bruce was the most heralded prospect for the Reds since Pete Rose. The hoopla that surrounded him last season when he was called up was phenomenal. He tore up pitching the first two weeks into the league before cooling off and hitting a little rookie wall towards the end of the season. Before this season, I drafted Bruce in nearly every fantasy baseball league that I am in. He has hit 18 homers so far in 2009, but his average has been hovering around .200 for most of the season. While fielding a ball in the outfield, Bruce broke his wrist and is likely out for 6-8 weeks, nearly most of the rest of the season. I have analyzed Bruce’s stats at the beginning of his career. When he was called up, comparisons of Rose, Bench, and Morgan were there, but so far he has not lived up to the hype. Would a comparison to ex-Reds Adam Dunn or Austin Kearns be more reasonable?

Bruce is a much better fielder than both Dunn and Kearns, so the comparison is clearly based on his ability at the plate. We all know that they both hit home-runs out of Great American Ballpark at an alarming rate early in their careers, but it is a hitter’s ballpark. Dunn’s minor league numbers translated similar into the pros, since he hit homers, walked a lot, but struck out at a high-rate. Austin Kearns spent three season in the minors, but clearly didn’t have the home run totals that Dunn put up at the high minor league level. He hit at a better average and didn’t strike out as much. Dunn and Kearns are different hitters when it comes to their splits stats when facing LHP vs. RHP. Dunn can hit for power against both lefties and righties, but Kearns did not have any power when facing southpaws.

Jay Bruce has similaries to both Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns early in their careers. Bruce is similar to Austin Kearns, because he has no power against LHP and he does not have a high strikeout rate. Bruce’s similarities to Dunn relates to batting average and power. Dunn swings for the fences with every at-bat, Bruces swings for the fences, but not as much. Bruce has not shown the ability to hit for average in his minor league career and doesn’t look like he will be winning any batting average during his career. He could end up with a career batting average similar to Dunn, but Bruce has more speed than Dunn ever had in his career.

My final analysis is that Bruce’s future is still to be determined. His 2009 season is forgettable and has had a bad luck. I’m not completely referring to his wrist injury, but his BABIP (Batting Average for Balls In Play) is one of the lowest in the league. He has not had the lucky bounces that other players have received this year. I would say that he looks to be more like Adam Dunn at this point in his career, but he could still be a more complete player in the long-term. “Bruce Almighty” may have all the fans in Cincinnati worried right now, but they still need a lot of pieces before the Reds are fending for the NL Central crown. Let’s just hope that in five year’s time, Bruce isn’t playing for the Washington Nationals like Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns.

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