Going into the season, the Bloomberg Sports tool identified some sleepers. These players would produce above and beyond their cost in the draft, and had favorable conditions for strong seasons. We're two weeks into the season, which is not quite enough to say anything definitive about performance, but just enough to wonder if those sleepers are on the right track.
First on the list was Hunter Pence. Projected for a .276 batting average, 24 home runs and 15 stolen bases, Pence was only going in the sixth round (69.6 ADP). By batting average, Pence is off to an excellent start - .326 on the young season - but it's not all good news. He managed to score 93 runs last year despite the terrible offense around him. This year, though, despite having been on base 18 times, he's scored only three runs. Given the number of times he was on base last year, he would have only scored 72 runs if he'd had the same success rate last year (Bloomberg Sports projects him for 76 this year). If you don't have many lead-off types on your team, you might consider trading Pence for a run-monger.
Next came Dan Haren, and his placement seems prescient now. His strikeout rate is a little lower in the American League (7.66 K/9 so far this year), but his control is so excellent (two walks in 24 2/3 innings) that he can be a great pitcher with an average K-rate. The best news is that the Angels offense is scoring runs for him and he has three wins in his first three starts. No cause for any concern here.
Third on the list was Billy Butler, and there are so many reasons to love Butler's early season. Not only has he already jacked two dongers, but his overall power is looking great. Though power is one of the last aspects of a player's game to become reliable - players have power surges all the time, look at Asdrubal Cabrera's start for an example - his isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) is .243, and that would be the first time it ventured over .200. The best news? He's hitting 44% of his balls in the air, the first time he's hit over 35% of his balls in the air. More balls in the air means more home runs. If you didn't end up with Butler, it might be too late to buy him, but you could check in with his owner anyway. If you did buy him, congrats!
Next up, Jay Bruce. Unfortunately, Bruce has performed the worst of this group, hitting .220 with no home runs on the young season. The biggest worry for Bruce owners is his elevated strikeout rate so far this season (36.6%), which is keeping his batting average low. Once he gets that closer to his career number (25.7%), his batting average should rise, and we have no doubts about his power.
The fifth player on the list was the slimmer Panda, Pablo Sandoval. He's back to his high-batting average ways (.368), and once again it's based on some great luck on balls in play (.433 BABIP). In his great 2009 season, Sandoval had a .350 BABIP, so it's possible that he's the Large Ichiro, since Ichiro Suzuki has a lifetime BABIP over .350 himself. He hasn't shown great power, though (.105 ISO). If he doesn't crack 20 home runs, how valuable will the batting average be?
Five sleepers, four great starts. They might not end the season as awesome as they've started, but so far so good for Bloomberg Sports' sleeper list.
- Eno Sarris
For more on Hunter Pence, Dan Haren, Billy Butler, Jay Bruce, Pablo Sandoval and other sleepers, check out Bloomberg Sports' Front Office 2011