Jay Allen Bruce was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round of the 2005 MLB Draft. Being the 12th overall selection in the draft meant lofty expectations for Bruce from the get-go, and he's certainly met them throughout his excellent 10-year major league career.
Bruce was always regarded as a highly-touted prospect with a projected upside of a perennial All-Star outfielder in the major leagues. At the age of 18, Baseball America ranked him as the 76th-best prospect in all of baseball going into 2006. The following season, BA ranked him as the 14th-best prospect heading into 2007.
After mashing his way through High-A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga in the Reds' system in 2007, Bruce was promoted to Triple-A Louisville for the first time on July 12. He made his Bats debut that same day at Louisville Slugger Field against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees. In his third at-bat, Bruce blasted a solo home run, a sign of great things to come for the slugger. In 50 games for the Bats that season, Bruce hit .305 with 11 home runs and 25 RBI. He took home Minor League Player of the Year honors for his stellar 2007 season.
Heading into the 2008 season, Bruce was ranked as the #1 prospect in all of baseball by several major publications, including Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. He opened the season with the Louisville Bats, starting in center field. The left-handed slugger struck fear into International League pitching staffs that season, batting .364 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in just 49 games before his call to the big leagues.
The Reds promoted Jay Bruce to the big league roster on May 27, 2008. He made his major league debut that day against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ballpark, immediately making an impact with a 3-for-3 game, driving in two runs and even stealing a base. Bruce is still the last Reds player with three or more hits in his MLB debut, and was the first to do it since Willie Greene on September 1, 1992. Bruce also became the first Reds player to steal a base in his MLB debut since Aaron Boone on June 20, 1997.
Bruce finished his Louisville career with a .332 batting average (129-for-389) with 65 runs, 21 doubles, seven triples, 21 home runs, 62 RBI, 12 stolen bases, and a .958 OPS in 104 career games with the Bats.
His excellent debut season with Cincinnati in 2008 (21 homers, 52 RBI in 108 games) marked just the beginning of an excellent major league career. That season, Bruce joined Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who hit 38 home runs in 1956, as the only players in Reds history with at least 20 home runs in their debut season.
Bruce's career with the Reds came to an end when he was dealt to the New York Mets on August 1, 2016 in exchange for left-handed pitcher Max Wotell and infielder Dilson Herrera. In nine seasons with Cincinnati, Bruce played 1,220 games in a Reds uniform, mustering up 1,116 hits, 238 doubles, 27 triples, 233 home runs, 718 RBI, and 61 stolen bases. His 233 homers are the eighth-most in franchise history.
Bruce has played for the Mets and also the Cleveland Indians since his departure from the Reds, most recently signing a 3-year, $39 million contract with the Mets through the 2020 season. The big outfielder from Beaumont, Texas started his journey in the minor leagues, making a lasting impact with the Louisville Bats and the city of Louisville and its fans.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.