The All-Star case for Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce


Jay Bruce has been dismal for the Cincinnati Reds over the past two seasons. But that should not prevent him from being a 2016 All-Star … and his numbers suggests he deserves it.

The Cincinnati Reds are terrible. At 29-48, they have the second worst record in the National League and with younger players getting a chance every other day (aside from the revolving door of irrelevant and aging bullpen options) there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel. But when you’re trapped in the heart of said tunnel, it’s hard to find any glimmer of hope.

Enter Jay Bruce and his declining defense, wildly inconsistent swing and his $12.5 million salary … his now surprisingly $12.5 million contract of a bargain.

Actually, Bruce has been so valuable this season, after a sell-everyone-at-a-discount-for-the-hell-of-it offseason which briefly included Bruce before a proposed trade fell through due to an injury to an involved player, Bruce actually possesses real, tangible value that contending teams are interested in.

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Here is why Bruce is now coveted by contenders, and likewise, why he could and should be a 2016 NL All-Star:

Pick a National League right fielder. The best one you can think of. Bryce Harper maybe? Giancarlo Stanton? Heck even Coors Field’s own Carlos Gonzalez. Jay Bruce has more home runs, 17, than all of them as well as the rest of the NL right fielders.

Only two NL outfielders have slugged more home runs than Bruce: his teammate Adam Duvall (21), who’s own All-Star case was examined earlier this month, and Yoenis Cespedes (18).

Home runs, much like strikeouts at least according to Max Scherzer, are sexy, but their value can be debated. What cannot be debated is the importance of scoring runs and having an impact player in the middle of your lineup who can drive them in. Jay Bruce leads all NL outfielders in Runs Batted In with 58 and is one of just three to eclipse the 50 mark: Matt Kemp (53) and Duvall (51). Where does he stack up against the entire league? Oh, he actually leads all of baseball in RBIs with Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo (55) trailing by three. Two designated hitters — Edwin Encarnacion (66) and David Ortiz (61) — and Coors Field dandy Nolan Arenado (63) — are the only players to drive in more runs than Bruce.

Bruce’s kryptonite in the past has been his batting average. He carries just a .250 career mark and hit a pedestrian .222 over the past two seasons. But seeing the ball better this season has Bruce fourth among 10 qualified NL right fielders with a .279 AVG. His .581 slugging percentage is tops among NL right fielders, his 17 doubles have him in a fifth-place tie with Kemp and his .909 OPS trails only Carlos Gonzalez.

For good measure, Bruce has added an NL-leading six triples and is a perfect 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts. You know, because his lighting quick feet should not be overlooked.

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According to FanGraph’s Wins Above Replacement, Bruce (10.6) trails only Gregory Polanco (13.3) in offensive WAR. Of course his defensive WAR, -16.7, is last among qualified NL right fielders but Brandon Belt‘s (-7.1) third worst defensive WAR in the NL hasn’t stopped him from receiving more than 1.2 million All-Star votes.

Ultimately, the NL outfield crop has some of the game’s most intriguing names. Harper, Stanton, Cespedes, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Heyward, among others, so to think Bruce will even sniff an All-Star bid is ludicrous, but then again, the National League hasn’t won an All-Star Game since 2012 so we shouldn’t expect anything less. But winning pays dividends in more ways than one and Bruce’s team has just 29 wins.