As Nick Senzel prepares to make his major league debut, let’s take a look back at the last Cincinnati Reds’ Top 5 overall prospect to make his debut for the club, Jay Bruce.
Jay Bruce was the No. 1 prospect in baseball entering the 2008 season. At the time, he was considered one of the best minor leaguer players the Cincinnati Reds had ever had. In 2007, Bruce flew through three levels of the Reds’ farm system, batting .319 between Advanced-A (Sarasota), Double-A (Chattanooga), and Triple-A (Louisville).
If Jay Bruce’s story sounds familiar to Reds fans, it should. After tearing apart minor league pitching in 2007, everyone expected him to make an appearance in Cincinnati before the season’s end. That did not happen. In the spring, fans were hoping that he would beat out a veteran for a starting spot with the team. That also did not happen.
After batting .364 with a 1.023 OPS for two months in Triple-A Louisville, the Cincinnati Reds couldn’t keep him down on the farm any longer. At 21-years-old, Jay Bruce made his Major League Baseball debut on May 27, 2008.
Bruce’s debut was everything you could want from a rookie in his first major league game. Bruce was the starting center fielder and batted second behind shortstop Jerry Hairston. In the bottom of the first inning, Bruce collected his first walk and stole second base before scoring on an Adam Dunn home run. In total, Bruce went 3-3 with 2 walks and 2 RBIs in his first major league game.
In his first 8 games with the Cincinnati Reds, the rookie phenom batter over .500 with 3 home runs and 7 RBIs. Bruce finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting that season. Not bad for a player who missed the first two months of the year.
Now, 11 years later, Reds fans find themselves in a similar situation. Nick Senzel is the team’s most highly touted prospect since Bruce came onto the scene in 2008. After two-plus seasons in the minor leagues, the Reds are finally ready to show off the second overall pick from the 2016 MLB Draft.
The No. 5 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Senzel would theoretically be the No. 2 overall overall prospect in all of baseball since Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., and Eloy Jimenez have now made their major league debuts.
Nick Senzel might not be as highly ranked or as young as Jay Bruce was when he broke onto the major league scene, but Senzel’s young talent has the potential to exceed expectations and become the new core of this Cincinnati Reds team.
Even if Senzel never plays better than Bruce did, is that necessarily a bad thing? Bruce was a three-time All-Star with the Cincinnati Reds and provided much needed power and stability on the contending teams earlier this decade. Bruce was a key part of the 2010 and 2012 National League Central Division Championship teams.
Bruce was also a fan favorite in the Queen City and provided some of the most memorable moments in recent Reds history. Sure, he was no MVP, but he was a vital part of the team for 9 years in Cincinnati. When Nick Senzel takes his spot in center field during this weekend series against the San Francisco Giants, the Bruce comparisons will come. This will be fun to watch.