1. Jay Bruce, Triple-A Louisville (Reds)
Rumor has it Bruce is our 2007 Minor League Player of the Year, but we'll never tell.
Well, at least not until Friday. Bruce started the season in high Class A, spent just two weeks in Double-A and finished it in the International League. Who cares if he wasn't called up? Bruce finished second in the minors to high Class A Lancaster's Zach Daeges in extra-base hits with 80. We should point out that Daeges spent all year in the hitter-friendly California League and is three years older than Bruce . . .
The 20-year-old Bruce finished the year at Louisville despite the Reds originally envisioning his promotion to Triple-A to be brief. Bruce also garners constant comparisons to Larry Walker, which he automatically deflects.
"If you don't pan out to be Larry Walker, then everyone was wrong," Bruce said. "If I'm a totally different player, everyone was wrong. Larry Walker was one of the best players of his time--great player, does it all. There's not too many players out there like that, so just to be mentioned in the same breath, same sentence and to be even closely compared to him at all is an honor.
"But you have to take it for what it's worth and I have to be Jay Bruce. There are definitely things I need to work on if I'm going to be a productive major league player."
One of those things is cutting down the strikeouts. Bruce whiffed 135 times over three levels this season after striking out 106 times in the Midwest League last year.
"That's just not acceptable for me," Bruce said. "I had 106 last year, but that was in a lot more at-bats. But this year had been a little different in regards to moving around so much and having to make adjustments. There's a learning curve, but I don't want to be a guy who strikes out a lot--even if I'm a 'power' guy. As I play more, I think it's going to get better."
In 187 Triple-A at-bats, Bruce batted .305/.358/.567 with 11 homers for the Bats.
I just like this guy.