As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a ’10 Bold Predictions for 2012′ series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our first prediction focuses on the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award for 2012, and it’s going to surprise you while it really shouldn’t. Not coming from us anyways.
Ask any devoted Cincinnati Reds fan who is the proverbial heart and soul of the Cincinnati Reds and you’ll probably get an answer that’s similar to this: The heart of this team is the guy with the MVP award at first base, and the soul is probably the young Texan who stands in right field. The same guy who serves as a ringleader of the large Texas contingent in the clubhouse. Reds, born and raised in the system; not crying about their contracts but rather just trying to catch excellence with their on-field performance while it’s still out in front of them.
And therein lies whom is most valuable within the Reds organization. While Votto will grab a lot of the headlines–it is Bruce who has become the glue that truly holds this group together. It’s prophetic for many of us at this time, because one day not too long ago we saw this as Jay Bruce’s team. With Votto’s contract situation looming and departure seeming imminent, it’s Bruce who is the future still and it’s going to be Bruce who is also the present.
One day earlier this month I was reading up on projections on different players and I of course found my way to Bruce’s page in this particular magazine. A feeling of certainty and confidence hit me when I read: ‘This is the year. You’re buying 40 home runs regardless of the average which has been particularly unlucky’ or something to that effect.
I just knew it in my heart–that Jay Bruce was going to have a season in 2012 unlike any he’s had in his entire life. You think pastures were green in May of 2011? Just wait until you see the new and improved Bruce.
Bruce lost about 16 pounds in the off-season to trim down. Many are speculating that this will allow Jay Bruce to turn on the inside fastball better or steal more bases. I see it another way.
By watching a large amount of Jay Bruce, he’s already displayed that he can turn on an inside fastball with the best of them. He’s always going to steal you between 8 and 12 bags. That’s who he is. The weight loss is going to allow Bruce to win his first Gold Glove award in the outfield–an award he should have had going away in 2010. What I’m telling you is Jay Bruce has gone a long ways towards helping himself become one of the best all-around players in the game, and it’s going to equate to wins on the field and in the WAR department in 2012.
Last year’s MVP Ryan Braun was a 7.8 WAR player in 2011, with Votto being a 7.3 in his sparkling 2010 MVP campaign. In 2012, I see Jay Bruce creeping into that 7+ WAR territory as a 25 year old player and doing it right at the time that so many seem to have him as one of the forgotten men in the National League. For instance, how many of you knew that Bruce was a 5.4 WAR player in 2010? Last year he dropped down to a 3.3 with the drop off coming solely from his fielding WAR going from 19.7 to -0.8. Bruce went from being the best right fielder in baseball defensively to hardly an asset based on what this stat tells us last season.
The weight loss will help Bruce show that he’s as good of an outfielder as the game offers, and he’s going to do his thing at the plate. I think this is the year that Bruce finds his way to around 40 home runs, with the love slightly more evenly spread than a hot month with another good 10 day stretch mixed in late in the season. It’s easy to see Bruce as a guy who only avoided struggles for some six weeks last season, I choose to look at it as a guy who has barely scratched the surface of his pedigree.
You want some numbers projections for Bruce in 2012? How about 39 home runs, 110 RBI and a .290 average with about 9 stolen bases? Add the Rawlings hardware and a team that is going to win their division going away and roll to the NLCS, and you’ve got your 2012 National League Most Valuable Player.
It’s going to be the perfect storm for Jay Bruce in 2012. And you heard it here first, he’s your next Most Valuable Player.