Posted by Mack Ade at 10:00 AM
As we approach the final month of the pre-season, the Mets find themselves still being the owners of left handed power hitting OF Jay Bruce. Alderson’s acquisition of Bruce back in July of 2016 was a two-fold approach to solving the club’s lack of hitting. A) The move was intended to lengthen the line-up by adding another power hitter to “protect” Cespedes. B) The move was an insurance policy for 2017 just in case the club was unable to re-sign Cespedes. Bruce’s contract had a 2017 club option attached that would allow the club maintain the same power capabilities going into 2017 as they had going into 2016.
The plan above was a perfect win-win scenario for Alderson. Unfortunately, Alderson and company mis-fired on two fronts in the scenario. 1) No one expected the Mets to sign Cespedes so easily and 2) In the weakest free agent class in over 5 years…..Bruce fell into the 1 player category that had plenty of inventory…..power hitting, low average, low WAR calculation outfielders. Now it seems like the club is stuck with Bruce….However…..such a problem is perhaps a good thing. In fact, the club should WANT to keep Bruce for the entirety of the 2017 season. Here’s the reasons why…
Power is Under-valued but Still Useful
Despite Bruce’s horrendous performance in a Mets uniform…..he did manage to finish 2016 with his 4th 30+ HR season in his career. In addition, while his pace of HR slowed down as a Met, he still managed to produce a run rate that would give him 26 HRs in a full season of crappy play. Sabermetrically speaking, Bruce is not as horrible as his line with the Mets suggest. Even though he was striking out at a 3% higher rate as a Met….his Hard Hit Contact ratios were in line to his time with the Reds.
The combination of Bruce, Cespedes, and Lucas Duda gives the Mets a trio of players that can all eclipse 30+ HRs. In the last 15 years, only 19 teams had a line-up that produced 3 or more 30+ HR hitters. What was the average record of those 19 teams? That would be 91 wins, 71 losses. In addition, 18 of the 19 produced winning records and 13 of those teams made the playoffs.
Bruce is a better RF than Granderson
Let’s preface this first…..Granderson is a superior fielder to Bruce….however, when it comes to the position of RF; arm strength is weighted more heavily in the analysis than at the other 2 OF positions. Despite being a lumbering mess, Bruce possesses one of the better cannons in the league. Over the past 6 seasons, Bruce is actually 3rd in the MLB with 60 total OF assists. Only Alex Gordon (72) and Gerardo Parra (64) have thrown out more runners. If you want to be more recent, (prior 3 seasons) Bruce is in the top 8 of runners thrown out.
Any defensive liabilities that Bruce may create from a range perspective are zero out by this improvement in arm strength. In addition, his range and fielding liabilities are also mitigated by the fact that the club has one of the Highest K% rotation in baseball which means less balls in play for the OF to potentially boot. Not to mention that the club will also be carrying defensive wizard Juan Lagares on the roster in addition to solid OF defenders in Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto for late inning replacements.
Bruce Helps Terry Balance the Line-Up vs Righties
One of the more undersold weaknesses of the club in 2016 was their hitting production against Right Handed Pitchers. The club was Top 10 against lefties but against righties they finished in the bottom 10. In 2016, Bruce had a pretty significant platoon split, displaying his ineffectiveness vs lefties with a measly .678 OPS against. Against RHPs though, he posted an OPS that was almost 200 basis points HIGHER at .872 OPS. If Bruce can get back to his normal production…that .872 OPS is going to significantly boost this team’s effectiveness against the righty heavy rotations of the Nationals, Phillies, and Braves.