Cincinnati Reds 2015 Grades: Jay Bruce

Most fans figured that Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce would improve upon his dreadful season of 2014. Well, he did improve, but not by much and certainly not to the standards the fans wanted.

Overall, Bruce hit .226/.294/.434 with an OPS of .729. While his average was sub-par, he still showed that he can hit for power, hitting 26 home runs and 35 doubles. He drove in 87 runs, though many of those were likely because Joey Votto reached base in front of him.

Bruce had another streaky season, something that is becoming a common occurrence for him. He started and ended 2015 with dreadful numbers, but was actually decent from May through July. His best month of the season came in July when he hit .315/.360/.618, with 28 hits. However, he followed up that with a dreadful month of August where he hit only .150/.185/.292 and had just 17 hits, including only two home runs, in 113 at-bats. September didn’t get much better. Although he had seven home runs, he hit just .205.

For the season, Bruce’s wRC+, which credits a hitter for the value of the outcome of an at-bat rather than treating all hits equally, was 91. By comparison, in 2014, it was 78. While he did improve from 2014 to 2015 by a wide margin, neither season comes close to 2010-2013, when it was consistently above 115. His career high is 124 in 2010.

Part of Bruce’s problem in 2015 was that his BABIP was .251, the lowest it’s been since 2009. Early in the season, Bruce was hitting the ball hard, but right at defenders, as evidenced by the .181 BABIP in April. When he was hitting the ball well in July, his BABIP was .338.

The larger problem Bruce had was that he continued to strike out at a high rate while not getting on base consistently. He ended 2015 with 145 strikeouts, a number lower than the past few years. But he walked just 58 times all season. This resulted in an OBP that was lower than .300 and a BB/SO ratio of just 0.4.

Bruce’s offense may have not lived up to expectations, but his defense was solid yet again. In 314 chances, he had 300 putouts and committed only three errors. According to advanced defensive statistics, Bruce’s defense was far from a career year, but he was still above the league average in almost every category. His defense also passed the eye test, making diving or leaping catches and strong throws to stop other teams from testing his arm.

Bruce will be 29 in April and is signed through 2016 with an option for 2017. Bruce probably would love to stay with the team that drafted him, but if he has another season like the last two, the Reds may have a decision to make in regards to offering him a long-term contract, considering his age and performance level.

Grade: C-

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