Apr 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) is congratulated by teammates after he hit a solo home run off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Jekyll Bruce, Jay Hyde

Which Jay Bruce trajectory do you subscribe to?

Because we’re talking two different people. At times, we see the bright ambitious kid who carried Clinchmas to Cincinnati as he rounded the bases on a chilly September evening. He’s the one you see on the poster hanging on your kid’s wall. Raw talent, potential, are the words you more than likely use when discussing this Jay at the water cooler.

Then there’s the other one. The one who comes up from a dingy, dark basement after he’s been working on the chemistry that will cease his propensity to swing at balls and end his own at-bats. He’s not so easy on the eyes. His expression is often one of frustration and confusion. He still produces, in a somewhat Adam Dunn-esque fashion. He gives you the numbers, but doesn’t give you the go-ahead run with two outs and runners in scoring position.

Do you subscribe to Paul Daugherty’s Jay Bruce? From The Morning Line (TML):

“But I think Bruce is who he is. This is his 4th full MLB season; he played lots the two years before that. He has a big, loopy swing. He has spent a couple years telling himself, ‘Self, do not get yourself out.’ So far, he still gets himself out.

This can be frustrating to all concerned. However, his #s have gone up steadily. I’ll take a 30-HR, 90-BI RF who plays good defense and has a very good arm anytime. There is nothing wrong with Bruce, except our expectations for him.”

Hard to argue with this assessment. Because what we have right now is a guy who bats a career a .256, averages about 26 home runs a year, strikes out a ton but contributes about 100 RBIs. Reds Statistician Joel Luckhaupt offered the following this morning regarding this Bruce:

Mr. Hyde is an ugly being. And the information above suggests Bruce’s discipline is going to mimic a Bengals off-season and remain precisely where it is. But then, there’s this:

And like that, Jekyll returns, with a smile as big as the state he hails from. He’s seeing more pitches. Seeing more pitches suggests patience. Patience from Bruce means a willingness to learn, because he hasn’t traditionally been a  patient batter.  The most patient hitters in baseball right now are two teammates of Bruce. Bruce is currently #8 in pitches seen this year.

Last year, by April’s end, Bruce was #86 in pitches seen.

There are two different trajectories out there for Bruce. There’s the one mentioned by Doc, the one that suggests he may be who he is after five seasons in the Show. The one that gives you the 25-30 HR, 90-100 RBI guy. He’ll strike out a ton. Statistically, he probably won’t come through when both Choo and Votto reach and Cozart and Phillips get out. But he will have evenings like last night, he will keep the fireworks operational at GABP, and he’ll still give you a golden glove defender in RF every game.

But when two guys ahead of Bruce are routinely getting on base, Bruce could be something much bigger. The thought of a 26-year old settling into the player he’ll always be is mildly unsatisfying. Can Bruce still become what everyone thought he would be? The de facto Reds clean-up man? The guy who teams prefer to walk rather than pitch to? Are these still reasonable expectations?

Or am I just being the spoiled brat on MTV’s Sweet Sixteen who’s pissed I get a brand new Audi instead of a Lexus? Is a 40 HR, 110+ RBI Jay Bruce far fetched?  Depends on which Jay Bruce you buy into.

Tags: Cincinnati Reds Jay Bruce MLB

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