Writing these first few previews is so nice and easy. No need to pay attention to bench guys yet because, really, who’s displacing Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips… or Jay Bruce?

Jay Bruce is probably not going to the Hall of Fame. Can we just get that out of the way right now? I know we all expected more out of him and he’s been a bit of a disappointment, but do cut him some slack. He’s still plenty young. Younger than Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart, and Yonder Alonso (though he only beats Alonso by a few days). This is his fifth season in the majors. Think about that for minute. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains. And Jay Bruce is in his fifth season in the big leagues.

And because he’s been around so long, we have a fair notion of who he is. He can hit, for instance, though not as well as we hoped. He’s probably good for 30+ homers over a season and he walks enough to make up for a batting average that’s lower than you’d like to see. And he can field. Or can he? The numbers are mixed here and even our eyes told us that he wasn’t as good last year as he had been in the past.

Bruce is probably doomed to be a perennial disappointment. He’ll be retired before people stop calling to send him down to triple-A and look up long enough to realize that, though he wasn’t as good as he might have been, he was still very good. Right now, for instance, he’s the second best hitter on the team. And much like the first two players we’ve profiled, the Reds will be hurting if he misses significant time.

But what to expect from the local enigma? The projection systems are somewhat mixed on offense, but they all seem to agree he’ll bounce back with the glove (at least the ones that bother with fielding). Not to his 2010 heights, but enough to be comfortably above average. I would tend to agree. The Reds will get more value from Bruce even if he hits exactly as he did last year.

And the bat? As I said, projection systems are mixed. Basically, they are arguing about whether the 2010 or 2011 version of Bruce was the real thing. Unlike with Phillips, I’m going with the optimistic side of things. Bruce is still plenty young and there is still reason to think he’ll improve a bit. I am ignoring the BABIP evidence for a change, but again, I’m mostly giving him extra credit for his youth. Correspondingly, I’m predicting right field as the first position where the Reds should definitively improve over last year.

2012 Slash Line Prediction: .270/.350/.500

2011 Right Field WAR: 3.3

2012 Best Guess WAR: 5.0

Projected Difference: +1.7

2012 Floor WAR: 2.5

2012 Ceiling WAR: 7.0

Redleg Nation Position-by-Position Season Preview:

First Base
Second Base
Right Field
Center Field
Catcher
Starting Pitching – Front End of the Rotation
Bullpen
Starting Pitching – Back End of the Rotation
Third Base
Shortstop
Left Field
Season Preview Wrap-Up