How The Preseason Sleepers Are Faring So Far

Time to check in an see how some favorite preseason sleepers are faring this season.

Bloomberg Sports was more optimistic on Hunter Pence, Dan Haren, Billy Butler, Jay Bruce, and Pablo Sandoval than most other fantasy baseball prognosticators.

On the positive side, Dan Haren and Jay Bruce have both paid off handsomely. Haren has been the fourth most valuable starter in the majors this year, according to the Front Office tool. He’s only garnered four wins in ten starts so far, but can show a 1.84 ERA and 66 strikeouts, which is second most in the American League at the moment. His better success this season can be attributed to better command — he’s brought down his walk rate  — as well as a better ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Last season, he was allowing 1.19 HRs per 9 IP; this season, in a friendlier pitcher’s park, that’s down to 0.37. He’s getting a tad lucky, but he’s likely going to earn his owners’ draft investment easily.

The same goes for Jay Bruce, who has 10 HRs, 4 SBs, and a respectable-for-a-slugger .265 batting average. Since last August, one can count the number of players with more HRs than Bruce on a single hand. Bruce has also made strides in his batting eye, cutting down on the strikeouts. A better Reds lineup also means he should surpass career high totals in runs and RBIs too.

Unfortunately, both Hunter Pence and Billy Butler seem to have taken a step backwards thus far. Pence is doing adequately on the surface with 5 HRs and a .293 AVG, but he’s whiffing a lot more at the plate these days. His strikeout rate is up from 17% last year to over 23% this one. Pence’s average may be due for some regression and he’s not stealing much either these days.

As for Butler, his batting eye is better than ever. He’s drawing a ton of walks and isn’t striking out significantly. Unfortunately, he only has 3 HRs this season as his HR-to-fly-balls has dipped down to the level we typically see from middle infielders with no power. He’ll be lucky to get to 20 HRs at this rate.

Pablo Sandoval was in the midst of a resurgent comeback season with 5 HRs and a .313 AVG in 91 plate appearances before he injured his hand and was lost for May. He’s due back next month but carries some risk. He’s likely to maintain a good average as his discipline at the plate is near elite; however, the hand injury could sap his power.

Finally, a look at some preseason sleeper favorites by others. Before the season began, we collected names being touted as breakouts and put them into a word cloud. The bigger the name, the more they were hyped…

So far, the wisdom of crowds seems to be a bit off in 2011. Ryan Raburn is hitting close to the Mendoza Line with a putrid 49 strikeouts to just 7 walks. He’s only got four home runs thus far. Dan Hudson‘s peripheral numbers hint at better things to come, but he’s currently sitting on an ERA above 4 and a WHIP above 1.3. Jose Tabata started out strong, then had to deal with a minor injury, and is now struggling to get it going again. J.P Arencibia and Chris Iannetta have both delivered moderate power at the catcher position, but both struggle to put the ball into play and suffer terrible batting averages and low RBI totals as a result. On the more positive side, Jhoulys Chacin and Mitch Moreland have delivered nice value from the late draft rounds.

-Eriq Gardner

For more, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office 2011

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