It's tough to find a bigger proponent of walks for any hitter, especially a young hitter, than me ... but I'm not really all that concerned about Bruce's walk rate yet. I wanted to take a look at walk rates for some recent/current Reds' hitting prospects during the last few years, and here's the tally ...
Minor League Walks
Player PA/BB Per 600 PA MLB PA/BB
Bruce 11.15 54 -----
Dunn 6.45 93 6.07
Encarnacion 11.89 50 11.67
Kearns 7.59 79 8.59
Pena 13.50* 44* 16.04
Votto 7.25 83 -----
* The Baseball Cube did not have HBP, SH, or SF figures for Pena
Generally, my rule has been if a young hitter keeps his PA/BB ratio under 12, then his walk rate is acceptable. Under 10 is good, and under 8 is fantastic. Edwin Encarnacion is a good example of a guy who didn't walk a ton during his minor league days, but he walked enough - 11.89 PA/BB in the minor leagues - to put off any concerns.
So far in 2007, Bruce's PA/BB ratio is around 13.50, but it's still very early, and two walks in his next 10 plate appearances is enough to get him back where he needs to be. Also, thanks to RL's fantastic report on Bruce back in January
, Bruce's walk rate is something that Bruce himself knows about and is focused on working to improve. It's quite impressive for a guy who just turned 20 who at least already has a decent walk rate and
knows the importance of walks. Obviously I would love if Bruce was able to walk at a rate of a Dunn, Kearns, or Votto in the minor leagues, but he is at least walking enough for me not to be overly concerned.
Interestingly, of the four guys in the above list who have reached the majors - Dunn, Kearns, Encarnacion, and Pena - only Pena's walk rate has suffered a pretty major collapse. Of course, Pena's walk rate was easily the worst among all of them in the minors, he's been a well-known hack for several years now, and he also had a contract situation that forced him up to the major leagues before he was ready to hit major league pitching. Dunn and Encarnacion have actually improved their walk rate in the majors a bit, and Kearns has only seen a small drop.