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Jay Bruce should be a pillar of the Mets’ offense in 2018

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Fresh off a new contract, Bruce will supply power in the heart of the order.

San Francisco Giants v. New York Mets

After being shipped off to the Indians last summer, the powerful Jay Bruce returned to the Mets this offseason on a three-year, $39 million contract. For the length of his contract, Bruce can expect to be playing mostly right field for the team if all goes right. While he may not be a perfect fit, the team valued his contributions on and off the field enough to lock him up for the next three seasons.

Coming off of a disappointing 50-game stretch with the Mets in his All-Star 2016 season after being traded from the Reds to the Mets, Bruce proved he still had the ability to be an intimidating force in the lineup in 2017, smacking a team-high 29 home runs in his 103 games in the orange and blue. It was a great season all around for Bruce, as he posted a 118 wRC+, 2.9 bWAR, and hit 36 home runs in his time between New York and Cleveland.

Both of those statistics can be partially attributed to Bruce playing without any health ailments all season, unlike the knee injury that severely limited his production in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. For the most part, Bruce manned right field for the Mets last year with some starts at first base sprinkled in. While he might not look like someone you’d expect to be a positive defender in the outfield, he was surprisingly effective for the Mets in 2017 with +10 DRS and a +2.0 UZR in right field.

Going into his age-31 season in 2018, Bruce can be expected to be one of the better offensive producers on the team. Outside of the aforementioned 2014 and 2015 seasons, he’s been a safe bet to hit around 30 home runs to go along with a wRC+ somewhere in the 115 range. The same can be expected next year from the slugger, especially in this homer-heavy environment across the league.

The Steamer projection is a bit down on Bruce for next year, at 26 home runs and a .238/.309/.465 line. The PECOTA projection is even more pessimistic on Bruce, predicting that he will hit .235/.301/.441 with 25 home runs. While his projected rate stats are below his previous output, the home runs and walks are still there for Bruce, which is what the Mets are paying him for. Hopefully, Bruce can continue to play at the levels that made him a fan favorite in Cincinnati and New York—and help bring the Mets to another playoff appearance.