It was on the first day of September last season when I truly saw that New York was not “too big” for Jay Bruce. Sure, that was the speculative line that so many media types and frustrated fans were parroting at that time, and well into the offseason, when trade rumors surrounded the former Reds power producer.
Bruce was coming off an awful first month with the Mets in which he hit .183 with two home runs. The locals were beginning to turn on him, and the media already started to wonder if it was a deal gone bad, that the Mets had traded for the wrong offensive supplement to Yoenis Cespedes in their efforts to make another playoff run. Yet here was Bruce on September 1 at Citi Field at the Mets annual Fantasy Football charity event for Big League Impact, spending real quality time with the same fans he had not won over yet. I observed as Bruce sat patiently with two fans for an extended period and answered all of their questions and engaged them in an extensive conversation. Bruce was not running away from New Yorkers. He was right in there with them, hanging out with them.
Bruce landed a luxury Manhattan rental in the offseason that made headlines. And most importantly, he consulted with Mets statistical guru T.J. Barra in an effort to right his wrongs from last year, mostly August. No, the old adage that gets slapped on players who struggle in New York was not applicable here. If Bruce was struggling, it had to be something mechanical or approach-related. And as it was outlined in this excellent piece in the New York Times, Bruce was not hitting fly balls enough and going too much to the opposite field.
So it wasn’t about wilting in the New York spotlight. For Bruce, that miserable August month that he wanted to rid himself of mentally this spring was about flaws in his approach, which he has since worked to correct. He wants to hit the ball more regularly to right center field, and has a goal of a 50 percent fly ball rate. The result has been a terrific start to the 2017 season, which includes four home runs in his first seven games. Last season he did not hit his fourth homer as a Met until his 29th game in the uniform.
Let’s not forget that Bruce is a three-time All-Star who hit 33 home runs and drove in 99 runs last year, and those were the second-best totals of his career in each department. He’s also set out to be more patient and draw more walks this year. Yes, Bruce can be streaky and he has a .248 career batting average with a .319 OBP. But he is not going to shrivel up in New York, and he can still hit .250 with 30-plus homers. As the 45th outfielder off the board in NFBC drafts, you’re going to be very happy with the return. The Mets are a power-hitting team, and Bruce fits nicely. One down month from last year does not tell the real story of who he can be for your Fantasy Baseball team this year. Bruce is still a very respectable source of power production, and with a sharpened focus, it’s not out of the question he could have his best statistical season yet.
-Colorado’s Antonio Senzatela is definitely worth the add after another impressive outing on Tuesday. He was pumping a good fastball and his slider was working well, Senzatela has not spent a lot of time in the minors and dealt with shoulder issues last year, but he was also the Class A California Pitcher of the Year in 2015. Pitching home games in Coors Field, especially against better teams than San Diego, will mean some bumpy outings for sure, but Senzatela is young, promising and at least should be picked up as a potential streamer.
-Jharel Cotton certainly looked like he was for real against Kansas City this week. He has a nifty screwball and a good cutter. He didn’t have ideal location, and command may sometimes be an issue. But he has impressive stuff and should certainly be worth the return as your fifth Fantasy starter this season.
-Adam Conley had a very good outing in his season debut, an encouraging sign that he has possibly put a very rough spring behind him. “It’s an ongoing battle,” he said of trying to overcome some of his bumpy runs. Conley is a smart kid, though, and I am keeping the faith that he still has some breakout potential this year as he tries to fine tune what ails him. Of course, Conley had a 1.20 ERA in three outings against the Mets last year and always gives them fits, so he has to start showing he can be just as effective against the rest of the league.
-Jose Bautista was hitting .120 entering play on Wednesday, without a homer. Not the type of start I expected him to get off to after hearing in the spring that he was very ticked off about not getting proper respect on the free agent market this offseason. The Jays are off to a terrible start overall. It’s not going to be long before he and Toronto both turn it around. I am maintaining confidence that we will see some big power surges from Bautista this year. He has a 31.3 percent K rate and a .188 BABIP. So better times are obviously ahead.
-Tim Anderson was hitting .192 with one steal and one RBI on Wednesday. He’s only 23 years old and it’s not even officially mid-April yet. If you’re down in the standings and point to a guy like Anderson as an issue, you have two problems. One, you are too impatient, and the other is, you are too impatient. Where you are in the standings in mid-April is not something to be upset about yet. Anderson is a very talented and the White Sox will let him work his way out of the dark period. You’ll want to have him in the lineup when he heats up soon. No way is he going to maintain a .278 BABIP.