Jay Bruce from MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Pitching is a priority for the Reds in the first-year player draft, but the team couldn't pass up on what it deemed to be a five-tool outfielder.
The Reds made center fielder Jay Bruce from West Brook High School in Beaumont, Texas, the 12th overall pick in the draft. It marks the first time the Reds have taken a position player with their first pick since 2000, when they selected shortstop David Espinosa.
Bruce, a National High School Player of the Year candidate who bats and throws left-handed, hit .538 with 12 home runs, 31 RBIs and 13 stolen bases during his senior season.
"He was the best athlete and best player [available] on the board for us," said Terry Anderson, the Reds' director of amateur scouting. "We had him real high. He's a guy we had targeted going into the day. We're really happy to get him."
Anderson was happy because he said Bruce, 18, has all five tools, meaning he is skilled at hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning, throwing and fielding.
"[Five-tool players] are kind of rare," Reynolds said. "All five [of Bruce's] tools are average to above. And we're projecting that by the time he's 21, they'll all be above."
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Bruce signed to play at Tulane next year, but he said he is going to forego the college route to begin his professional career.
"I'm definitely signing," he said. "I'm a first-round pick. You can't ask for much more than that."
Bruce is the second high school player drafted by the Reds with their first pick in as many years. Homer Bailey was taken out of LaGrange (Texas) High School in 2004.
"We've got a few Texas guys," Bruce said. "Maybe we can bring the 'Big Red Machine' back."
Complete coverage >The Reds aren't quite sure where Bruce would fit into said "Machine." He played center field in high school, but his size might require a move to one of the corner outfield spots at some point.
"We're going to put him in center field, and that's where he'll start, but we'll just have to see what nature does here," Reynolds said.
Once signed, Bruce is expected to join the Reds' Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota, Fla.
Reportedly once linked to agent Scott Boras, Bruce is now hooked up with Matt Sosnick. That should help the Reds' chances of locking him up rather quickly.
"I'm going to make [the signing] fairly quick," Bruce said. "I'm not going to be in any huge rush, but I'm not going to draw it out for any huge amount of time."
Bruce said the Reds were the first professional team he ever tried out for last May.
The Reds compare Bruce to the Cardinals' Jim Edmonds. It's a comparison that sat just fine with Bruce.
"I hope one day I'm as good as Jim Edmonds," he said. "I think it's a feasible task. I love defense. It's a big part of my game, so that's a great comparison."
But Bruce's greatest asset is his bat.
"We think he has a chance to hit .300 or better with 30 home runs," Anderson said. "Time will tell."
With projected numbers like those, the Reds felt they had no choice but to take Bruce, even if he doesn't call the mound his place of work.
"We just had this guy higher on the board than anybody else," Anderson said.