Overvalued: Jay Bruce
Jay Bruce gets a lot of love from all over the fantasy baseball spectrum. There aren’t many places you can go where you’ll find people who don’t want to draft him. While Bruce excites us with his power and tantalizes us with his tools, the sum of the parts is not all that exciting. His career slash line of .255/.330/.483 is not all that impressive. Now Bruce made it to the majors at just 21-years-old, so his numbers should be and have been improving ever so slightly. However, he has never posted an OPS of .900 or above. He hasn’t even reached the .850 mark yet in his career. This may very well be the year he does, but without much speed, and as a player who will hurt your team in batting average, why exactly is he being picked 25th overall at Mock Draft Central?
Every year people want to find that guy who will have the breakout season. That player is subsequently over-drafted and any potential value is lost when the cost of the player is equal to what one hopes he will become. There is a lot to like about Bruce, he is entering his prime, possesses plus raw power seen in his .263 ISO last year and he will pitch in 5-10 stolen bases. But that is about it. He plays in a hitters park and is surrounded by a very strong lineup, so his counting stats will always look good, but his deficiencies are not about to change. While he walks at a 10% clip, he also strikes out a lot and the strikeouts are going in the wrong direction, culminating at a 24.7% rate last year. The strikeouts will always suppress his batting average and one cannot pencil him in for anything more than a .260 average.
A player who hits .260, has not yet topped the .850 OPS mark and does not provide value with his legs should not be on player’s radar at the beginning of the third round. If you want a player who has 35 HR potential and will put up similar rate stats to Jay Bruce his name is Carlos Quentin and you can draft him 17 rounds, or 205 picks after Bruce goes off the board. Quentin owns a higher career ISO than Bruce (.239 to .228) and was right there with Bruce in terms of raw power last year with a .243 mark that led to 16 HR in 86 games. Quentin’s problem isn’t his skill, it is his ability to stay healthy. So there is a reason he is going so late in drafts, but as one of the last players picked? That’s a little extreme. While Quentin hit just .261 last year, he had a .252 BABIP to thank for that. Quentin dutifully takes his walks at a similar rate to Bruce, but what separates the two is Quentin’s contact skills as he struck out in just 12.3% of his at bats last year and is at 15.4% for his career. It may seem like a long time ago now, but Quentin can still be the player who hit .288/.394/.571 with 36 HR in 2008. Those are the numbers Bruce owners are dreaming of, and Quentin did that in just 130 games.
A good example of player who has been much better than Bruce over his career and is being ranked below him is Aramis Ramirez. While Bruce has never come close to a .900 OPS, Ramirez had six straight seasons of .898 or higher until the streak was cut short in 2010 with .747 mark on the heels of a .245 BABIP. That year Ramirez still hit 25 HR in 124 games. The following year Ramirez was back up to .871 despite hitting just 2 HR through the end of May. Last year Ramirez was back up to his typical .901 OPS and has hit over .300 each of the past two seasons, even pitching in 9 SB last year with the steal-happy Brewers. He is only being picked 12 spots behind Bruce, but I believe he presents a much better investment for 2013.
One year Bruce will hit .280 with 40 bombs and pile up the runs and ribs. He is a very good player in a great situation, but until he proves otherwise, there are better options available in the third round.