Prospect Smackdown: Jay Bruce vs. Colby Rasmus
Background and Intangibles
Bruce: Bruce was drafted by the Reds in the first round in 2005, 12th overall, out of high school in Beaumont, Texas. Named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in 2007, he had a terrific campaign at three levels, including dominating Triple-A at age 20. Scouts love his makeup and work ethic and praise his intangibles.
Rasmus: Rasmus was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round in 2005, 28th overall, out of high school in Phenix City, Alabama. Rated as the top prospect in the Texas League last year by most experts, he draws praise for his broad range of tools and skills. Scouts love his makeup and work ethic and praise his intangibles.
Advantage: Both are high-profile draftees with pro success and strong work ethics. Looks even to me.
Physicality, Health, and Tools
Bruce: Bruce is 6-2, 218, born April 3, 1987, a left-handed hitter and thrower. Scouts love his strength and athleticism. His worst physical tool is running speed, which still rates a tick above average. He's expected to hit for both average and power due to his exceptional bat speed. His plate discipline is erratic and he strikes out a lot, but his bat is so quick that the less-than-perfect strike zone judgment has not hurt his performance so far against pro pitching. He's aware of this issue and it shouldn't be a long-term problem given how hard he works. Overall he is a complete package physically, though he may lose his speed as he ages. He plays center now but may move to right field in the future.
Rasmus: Rasmus is 6-2, 195 pounds, born August 11, 1986, a left-handed hitter and thrower. Like Bruce, his tools rate as slightly above average to excellent across the board. He has above average power, above average speed, and excellent plate discipline. He is also a terrific defensive outfielder with a strong arm. His strike zone judgment is a big plus.
Advantage: Bruce may have slightly more power potential and his bat is a touch quicker, but Rasmus has better strike zone judgment, will keep his speed longer, and is more likely to be playing center field ten years from now. Both of them have the physicality and tools to be complete players.
Performance and Polish
Bruce: Bruce is a career .299/.362/.543 hitter, including .305/.358/.567 in 50 games of Triple-A last year. He is polished in most respects, needing only to tighten up the strike zone a bit more.
Rasmus: Rasmus is a career .285/.371/.510 hitter, including .275/.381/.551 in Double-A last year. He is polished in most respects. His main problem is that he becomes too pull-conscious at times, leading to hot/cold spells that can inhibit his batting average.
Advantage: Rasmus has better command of the strike zone right now, but Bruce has shown more of an ability to hit for average against minor league pitching. Rasmus has produced a better OBP but Bruce has shown a tad bit better power.
Bruce: Bruce projects as a superstar hitter with a high batting average (once he settles in) excellent power production, and fine defense in right field (in the long run). PECOTA comps include Cliff Floyd and Manny Ramirez on the positive side, and Dee Brown on the negative side. Upside VORP is 274.0
Rasmus: Rasmus projects as a star or superstar with a moderate batting average, excellent power production, and excellent defense in center field. PECOTA comps include Carlos Beltran and Bobby Abreu on the positive side, and Dee Brown and Willie Green on the negative side. Upside VORP is 139.0
Advantage: It's interesting that PECOTA sees Dee Brown as a comp for both players, which basically shows you what a good prospect Dee was before he fell apart. PECOTA isn't everything course but I think the high-end comps hold, with Bruce having a shot at developing into a Manny Ramirez type (with better defense) while Rasmus would be more in the Beltran class at the high end. PECOTA rates Bruce's possible upside as significantly higher than Rasmus', though I think it exaggerates a bit.
Ultimately I went with Bruce as the Top Hitting prospect in baseball, with Rasmus at number three in the 2008 Baseball Prospect Book. As you can see they are very close, but ultimately I think Bruce's offensive ceiling is just a tad higher than Rasmus', though Rasmus is hardly a slouch and may develop into a more complete player in other ways.