Sometimes guys are so obviously sleepers that it makes them overrated and consequently sleeper sells. This happened in last year’s preseason to Chris Davis. By the time we’re all drafting in 2010, Jay Bruce may fall into that category. I tend to think he won’t because he was clearly terrible last year when you look at his surface numbers. That’s good. Don’t overrate the previous year. Ever. Baseball is a game of skills, not what someone did for a month or two in 2009. Or three or four months. One season does not make a career. Anyone who’s familiar with my MO knows that I love me some players coming off a bad season who are capable of better. When the player coming off the bad season is only 22, all the better. Sucks for those that owned Jay Bruce last year. He wasn’t good. Then he was hurt diving for a ball in the outfield. If you owned Bruce last year, push that bitterness you feel towards him deep into your cankles so you don’t remember it without 5 years of psychoanalysis. Next year, Jay Bruce can be a nice fantasy baseball sleeper.
Bruce’s .222 BABIP was the lowest for any hitter in the Major Leagues with 345 or more at-bats. This can be partially attributed to a dip in his line drive rate and partially attributed to the luck of a guy who simultaneously loses his virginity and gets herpes. The dip in the line drive rate is not a great sign, but homers can cause young hitters to do strange things. In April and May, Bruce hit 14 homers combined as his average plummeted. His fly ball rate also, for lack of a better word, skyrocketed. He may have just been trying to do too much. When he returned in September after his injury, he did so with an adjustment to his batting stance. Choosing to honor Gregory Hines in a different way, he lost the toe tap. Then he hit .326 with 4 homers, 17 RBIs in 46 at-bats in the portmanteau of Septober. Also, and perhaps more importantly, his luck turned around (.367 BABIP) and his line drive rate sharpened (14.7%). There will still be some growing pains, Ben Seaver, but Bruce is young enough to go from someone drafted like a third outfielder to someone who performs like a first. I like Jay Bruce like Snooki loves pickles.