Bruce believes he's playing at All-Star level

Left-handed slugger leads NL right fielders in homers, extra-base hits

Bruce believes he's playing at All-Star level

CINCINNATI -- Following two subpar seasons, Reds right fielder Jay Bruce is enjoying a resurgent 2016, on pace for one of the best seasons of his career.

Outside of Cincinnati, however, few have noticed. Bruce does not rank in the top 15 in All-Star voting among National League outfielders, and most of the headlines he makes are for persistent trade rumors. But he's been essential in 2016 for Cincinnati, proving it again during a 3-0 victory over the Padres on Sunday with a homer and a nice catch at the wall to end the game.

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"I've played worse and made it. I've been close to this before and not made it. It's all circumstantial," Bruce said.

Bruce's home run vs. Luis Perdomo on a first-pitch slider to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning gives him 17 for the season. He's batting .279/.328/.581 with 17 doubles and 58 RBIs -- including .312 with nine homers over his last 27 games.

At the current pace, Bruce would end the season with 36 homers -- his career high is 34. He's also on pace for 36 doubles, 13 triples and 124 RBIs.

An All-Star in 2011 and '12, Bruce leads all Major League right fielders in homers, and is tied for third at his position in doubles. He also leads all of the NL with six triples and 40 extra-base hits.

A few things are working against Bruce, though, as the Reds are currently last in the NL Central at 29-47. That makes his club a good bet to get the minimum one All-Star pick. He's also coming off 2014-15 seasons where he averaged a slash-line of .222/.288/.406 with a combined 44 homers and 153 RBIs.

"Not playing well as a team, you know it's going to be hard to get multiple, guys and I believe there are multiple guys here that are very, very deserving -- [Zack] Cozart, [Adam] Duvall and myself, I feel like are very, very deserving. I'd obviously love to be an All-Star. The only thing I can do is handle what I can on the field and wait and see. Hopefully all three of us can make it, I think we're all deserving. I think I've played well enough to be an All-Star. Whether I am one or not, it's not for me to decide. We'll wait and see."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.