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09/07/07 8:47 PM ET

Bruce named Minors Player of the Year

Slugging outfielder joins elite fraternity with prestigious honor

CINCINNATI -- The term "can't-miss prospect" can be a risky one to tag on a young player. But outfielder Jay Bruce joined an elite list that hasn't had many misses over the years.

On Friday, the 20-year-old Bruce became the first member of the Reds' organization to be named the Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America.

"It's the biggest honor I've received so far," said Bruce in a phone interview Saturday. "When you see some of the names that have come through the Reds organization, [Barry] Larkin, [Adam] Dunn, [Austin] Kearns, it says a lot."

Previous winners of the award include Manny Ramirez (1993), Derek Jeter (1994), Andruw Jones (1995-96), Josh Beckett (2001) and Joe Mauer (2003).

The Reds' first-round Draft pick (12th overall) in 2005, Bruce advanced from Class A Sarasota to Triple-A Louisville this season and batted .319 with 26 homers and 89 RBIs. His 80 extra-base hits and 306 total bases were both ranked second in the Minor Leagues.

"He had a fantastic year at all three levels," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "The Triple-A thing wasn't planned, but he made the most of the opportunity and showed us he could compete at the next-to-highest level."

In 67 games at Sarasota, Bruce batted .325 with 11 homers and then spent 16 games at Double-A Chattanooga, where he batted .333 with four homers.

Injuries this summer left the organization shorthanded for outfielders at Louisville. Bruce was promoted for what was supposed to be a temporary stay.

"I remember the call from [player development director] Terry Reynolds," Krivsky said. "[He said,] 'Hey Wayne, do you mind if we send Bruce to Triple-A? It's only going to be for five days.' It ended up being the rest of the season."

Bruce batted .301 with 11 homers and 25 RBIs in 50 games at Triple-A.

"Being successful at Triple-A was a big confidence-builder for me," said Bruce. "There were a lot of unknowns, but I feel I proved I belong at that level."

Bruce said he feels physically ready for the Major Leagues, but wasn't certain if he was mentally prepared to make the adjustments necessary to succeed at the next level.

"You have to be able to handle the rough times," he said. "There's a huge learning curve. I can't say for sure if I'm ready until I'm there. My main goal is to make it to the Major Leagues and to be with the Reds for a long, long time."

"He showed he could handle the next level and had a very good year overall," Krivsky said.

Bruce was not among Cincinnati's September callups this week because the club felt he would not get enough at-bats.

"He showed he could handle the next level and had a very good year overall," Krivsky said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Jeff Wallner contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.