What do you do with Ryan Braun?

Before Dec. 10, 2011, I would have argued that Ryan Braun should be the consensus No. 1 overall pick for the 2012 season. On Dec. 11, I would have said he doesn’t deserve to even be on anyone’s fantasy radar at all.

What changed? Well, I was shocked to learn that Braun, one of my own personal favorite players, had tested positive for PEDs. Actually, it was a “banned” substance. You can google what that substance is speculated to be. I won’t substantiate those rumors here.

Historically I am a massive steroid user apologist, as are most fantasy sports enthusiasts, I would think. We tend to be all about winning the statistics and have little regard for the purity/integrity of how those stats are accumulated. I may be generalizing, and forgive me for that, but this isn’t doing your taxes, and I’m not leading the free world. I want guys that produce. You produce, I’m happy. If you don’t produce, I cut/trade you. It’s all pretty simple.

Braun struck me differently. I didn’t believe it. From all accounts that I’ve ever read about him, I have never heard one thing that would indicate him as a purposeful cheater, so I was very disappointed. My passion that spurned my love for him as a player quickly turned to disdain for him as a 2012 fantasy option. Fifty games will be the sentence if Braun’s suspension is upheld.

Here we are a month later, and my emotions have settled. I’ve started to think about how I could use this to my advantage. We are going to assume that Braun is not granted his appeal seeing as most of your fellow drafters will be doing the same. So in what round can we expect Braun to be taken? I can’t imagine he will be anywhere near a forty dollar value or near the first three rounds of any redraft league as he was prior to December.

I went to Mock Draft Central to get the pulse of his current ADP. Well, that was a total fail. MDC’s player rankings are way off, and only three team managers were present for the ten-team mock. I left the draft room to gander upon the ADP reports they have listed. Braun apparently rated from the second pick all the way to pick 96. For the sake of argument, I’m going to take both the second pick out as an outlier, or rather a draft that was done prior to the news of the 50-game suspension.

To understand what you should pay for Braun, you need to understand what you could expect statistically from him. I set out on this journey to help myself and you get a better, more reasonable expectation for Braun’s 2012 season. So, obviously, Braun is facing a season where he can play a maximum of 112 games. Since Braun has never played 162 games in a season, you can’t automatically assume he plays all 112 of those games.

Braun’s career average is 154 games, not including his midseason call-up year during his rookie season. Furthermore, I didn’t include any of his rookie stats in my averages considering the amount of games he played and the outlier-like stats he was able to accrue. We will not dismiss these stats; however, we will return to this rookie season later in my analysis.

If you take that 154-game average Braun amassed during his four years of service time and project it across 112 games, you will come to about 106-107 games. Taking this 106.45-game average and inputting that against his career averages, it’s actually quite easy to come up with a fun look at what a 2012 season could look like it. Granted, this methodology is as basic as it gets, but I think it will go far towards proving my point.

Here’s the line I was able to come up with: .310 AVG/ 22 HR/ 72 R/ 75 RBI/ 14 SB. All those stats were slightly rounded up. I must first say that Braun’s value will be greatly different to head-to-head and dynasty leaguers than it will be to a standard 5×5 roto league. Braun will have significantly more value in H2H than roto because of replacement value.

Roto is about amassing the most possible stats out of a set amount of games. H2H is about beating an opponent’s lineup any single week. Stashing Braun on the bench would be more valuable to a H2H gamer because of his ability to dramatically affect the second half of the season and even into the fantasy playoffs.

For you roto-heads out there, I think Braun may be worth more than you think. When I set out to write this piece, I had Braun pegged as a seventh-to-eight-round guy. Once I averaged out that projected stat line above, I began to have a little different feeling.

Bear with me here, but how about pairing the pick of Braun with another emerging outfielder that surely won’t cost much? I like Chris Heisey or Dayan Viciedo. If you take these cheap outfielders and live with their production for fifty games, how good a collective season could we be talking about for this OF position on your starting lineup?

If Heisey hits 8-10 home runs during that span, we’re talking a 30-plus HR season when you combine that with Braun. It’s very possible, seeing as he put 18 HR in 279 at-bats, and it sounds like he will be in for everyday playing time. If Viciedo hits 4-5 homers with nearly a .300 average, your talking about a surefire second-round pick. I love Viciedo as a sneaky outfield play this year with the departure of Carlos Quentin to San Diego.

I almost feel it would be stupid not to take advantage of everybody else’s propensity to stay away from Braun. I think I like the idea of bringing in a stud on a suspension because I can take the value and strategize how to deal with the playing time gap. Anybody I get to fill that gap should do a good enough job to make this OF position uber-valuable.

Let’s get back to that rookie season. I had so much fun looking at Braun because his stat lines are built for this kind of speculation and strategy. If you look at that rookie season, he appeared in 113 games. That’s an interesting coincidence. In 2007, Braun hit .324 AVG/ 34 HR/ 91 R/ 97 RBI/ 15 SB. Could you imagine getting that stat line out of 112 games? It wouldn’t matter who you got to be the fill-in. You would automatically have first-round value.

That’s what I’m trying to say. Braun’s rookie year is an obvious outlier, but there is a definite “what if.” He has the talent, and you know he’ll have the motivation.

I will say this. I will be paying upwards of $25-30 for Braun, and I will be targeting him beginning in the fourth round. I think he slots in there ahead of Hunter Pence, Adam Jones, and even Alex Gordon. You could argue Josh Hamilton, but I will always overvalue Hamilton.

I am very curious to see if anybody has similar or differing opinions about Mr. Braun. Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

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  1. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Behemoth- I like the way you’re thinking when you used the Nelson Cruz to Ryan Braun comparison. Injuries are harder to plan for, but you are right about Cruz’ propensity to miss a comparable amount of time. He is a considerably more high risk than what we’ll assume Ryan Braun will be.

    Braun’s injury history is very small; whereas, Nelson’s is storied. But there could be an argument made that Nelson’s chance of playing a full season is worth a higher pick than what we know Braun will be dealing with in that 50 game suspension.

    Now, I think I was trying to make that same point you made in the second paragraph, that Braun plus X player equals second rounder with potential of first rounder. I consider Chris Heisey waiver wire fodder in most leagues other than deeper 14 team 5 0F leagues or NL Only leagues. Viciedo has more rosterablity than Heisey, and he represents a guy you go into a draft targetted to be a fill-in for Braun, especially in shallower leagues. Viciedo will also be 3B eligible so he may not have been the best example.

    I was trying to peg a caliber of player, but it really doesn’t matter. Player X + Braun – Emotion equals a great fantasy player.

  2. Jerry said...

    It is tough tough to imagine that Braun still would have that much value if he missed 30% of the season, but I guess that comes with being the number 1 player in baseball. I think an interesting comparison would be between Braun and Howard who is also likely to miss significant time to start the season (though likely to play about 80% of the season). I am not comparing the value of the players as Braun is obviously way more valuable normally, but how the loss of time would affect the overall production of the players. In other words, can a similar argument be made for Howard’s modified value as it is for Braun’s, or is the full season gap too great between the 2 players for Howard to still retain value if he missed 20% of the season as compared to Braun missing 30% of the season?

  3. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Jerry- The Ryan Howard comparison is very interesting. Obviously, you are right that Howard could present the same kind of quandry as Braun. I would not recommend rostering both Braun and Howard, but like you said, there’s reasoning to think that you could prepare similarly.

    Although, Howard has a lot more risk than Braun. First of all, Braun is not injured and thus, this strategy is a little safer with him. Howard blew out his achilles. He doesn’t have any injury history, but he’s big. Howard has also had two straight underperforming seasons.

    My recommendation to you, Jerry, is to go into your drafts with an open mind. I haven’t really looked at this, but I would assume he goes off the board in the middle rounds (like 8-12). I’m fine drafting him in that range. There’s so many first basemen that you can supplement him with. If your league has DL slots, Howard will obviously have more value.

    Basically, I wouldn’t stay away. Just be careful. I’ll try to do the math and maybe do a column about Howard later. Thanks for the input.

  4. Brad Johnson said...

    Viciedo’s striking me as they guy who’s a sleeper in name only but will actually be over-drafted quite frequently. The hype he’s getting is reminding me of Kyle Blanks.

  5. Ben Pritchett said...

    Now Brad, I’m only Viciedo fan if he’s cheap. If he’s hyped, I’m staying away. To me, he’s a fill-in, 5th or 6th Outfielder.

  6. Dave Shovein said...

    So far in early NFBC pay drafts, he’s been going between the late 2nd and early 3rd rounds (somewhere between 28-36 overall)

  7. Ben Pritchett said...

    Wow, that’s a little high, but I could see how someone in the NFBC would want such great guaranteed production even if it’s only for 112 games.

    I have Braun slotted in 40+ range, but that’s just because I want to hound value. If you use my reasoning above, 28-36 is exactly where he could slot. I also think some people may be holding out hope that he wins his appeal. If that happens they would be sitting pretty in a high-stakes league. That risk/reward strategy makes sense too.

    For curiousity sake, how high is Bryce Harper getting taken in the NFBC right now? Furthermore, I thought the NFBC was bankrupt. Did someone else pick up the naming rights?

  8. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Ayebatter, I’d probably pay $31 for him. I didn’t realize his snake draft value would still be so high. I’ll be curious to see how his stock changes when the suspension is confirmed. Thanks for the draft info, Ayebatter.

  9. Jack Thomas said...

    I have Braun in the 5th rd on my draftboard. He definitely has value in only 110 games. However, there is some risk that he returns as the same player he has been. It will be very difficult for him to remain focused. The big problem is that he will have to carried on your roster as a bench player. (No DL as Ryan Howard would be). Depending on your bench size, this has a negative value associated with it.

  10. MH said...

    The only issue I have with the 110 Braun + 50 Heisey argument I have is that it really depends on reserve space.  Having a guy stashed for 50 games isn’t that big a deal if you have 5+ bench spots to let him sit on, but because he’s not DL eligible, with each reserve spot fewer than 5, it really begins to have an increasing marginal cost.  It severely limits your ability to handle roster crunches or spot start SPs.  You basically have to plan not to have anyone with long-term value for a roster spot or two so you can keep them open for when/if you need to make moves (which over 50 games, you will).  I know my main league has only 3 bench spots, so it would take Braun getting pretty deep before I would consider drafting him.  Part of this depends on your draft style too.  Bbecause I know I’m something of a risk-hound and a guy who likes to make a lot of waiver wire moves, I don’t think I could really go after Braun before pick 60, and even that might be a little early for me.  I’d rather take a risk on someone like Brett Lawrie, Chase Utley, or Stephen Strasburg in that part of the draft. On the other hand, if you’re still in saftey mode at that point in the draft, and you don’t mind getting lots of known quantities even deep in the draft and then streaming your last couple roster spots until Braun gets healthy, drafting him a bit earlier makes more sense.

  11. MikeEl said...

    I think you’re ignoring the possibility that whatever PED he was taking, (and is presumably off of now), may have boosted his previous season’s stats. His performance may very well suffer this year when he does play, from this lack of PED.

  12. Ben Pritchett said...

    @MH- I was working under the assumption that most leagues allot four to five bench spots. Obviously, Braun’s value decreases or increases based on the size of the bench. I was also using this Braun experiment in a roto format so spot starting pitchers isn’t a necessity.

    I don’t understand your references to Braun’s health. He should be fine in that department.

    But as you stated, if you like to play the waiver wire, then the Braun strategy really isn’t for you. It’s more for the guy that likes to set the table and watch. Active managers by way of transactions need plenty of bench space so I get what you’re saying. It’s not necessarily the strategy I would use, but that doesn’t make it any less sound.

  13. Ben Pritchett said...

    @MikeEl- His suspension regards a banned substance not necessarily a PED. There are rumors as to what that substance was but until we know, it’s really not fair to speculate on how or if it will affect his performance. It’s definitely something to monitor. We should know more befor the start of Spring Training.

  14. MH said...


    My bad, wasn’t trying to imply anything about Braun’s health, but the other stuff was exactly what I was getting at.  I’m sure I’ll play in some deeper-reserve leagues where I’ll definitely be taking a harder look at Braun, but that’s the format of the big money league I play in.  I’m actually still somewhat green to leagues like that, its only my 2nd year in that league and I managed 2nd place last year.  I’d been playing in lower-stakes and free leagues for four years prior to last year, some of which were pretty competitive, but dropping a decent chunk of change really ups the competition level lol.  My style is definitely much more active though, no matter the format I’m almost always among the league leaders in moves made.

    FWIW, also, in shallow bench-deep starting roster formats like that spot starting does become more a part of the game (and actually as much with hitters as pitchers).  Its very difficult to keep a consistent innings pace throughout the year while taking the most advantage of the roster space you do have, so you’re likely to go through periods where you see yourself needing to pick up some innings at some point and when you find favorable matchups on the wire you often have to jump on them.

  15. Behemoth said...

    An interesting thought experiment would be to take a guy like Nelson Cruz, who usually seems to miss about 50 games a year, prorate his stats to work out what they would be if he played the same number of games as Braun, and then you can compare their expected stats, and that should give you a fair indication of where Braun should be drafted.

    Another thing that I think you’ve missed in this analysis is that the OF slot that Braun would normally fill will not be empty while he’s suspended. In most mixed leagues, you could slot in a waiver wire outfielder, who would often be a 12/12 or 15/15 sort of guy. That means that you could add 4 or 5 homers and steals to the Braun projection, and say 20 runs and RBIs, to get a realistic picture of what a roto manager would get out of a Braun pick.

  16. bensbias said...

    I’m in a 12 team keeper league and Ryan Braun was recently dealt this offseason for Nelson Cruz, 11th round, 14th round, 15th round, 16th round and 20th round draft picks.

    We keep 10 players, so the 11th round is kind of the first grab at the available players, although not every team keeps 10.

    I wasn’t involved in the deal, but I’m wondering what you guys think.

  17. anthony tesorio said...

    @ ben mlb released that not only was brauns testosterone too high it was “chemically” made that way so not “normal” steroids such as dianabol or the other common steroids.

  18. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Anthony T- I was trying to avoid mentioning what I had heard Braun tested positive for, but here’s a yahoo article hinting:


    It’s still a banned substance not necessarily a PED. There’s no actual report stating the drug, but many are speculating. Please just google. I feel like this isn’t a rumor site, but if Yahoo is reporting “reports” then there must be something to it. Email me and I’ll tell you what the drug is that he’s being rumored to have been using.

  19. Ben Pritchett said...

    Also, please take into account that this information is coming from TMZ. So, we all know what that means by way of truth. If I’m not mistaken, TMZ broke the story initially so there’s something to be said for that as well.

  20. Derek Ambrosino said...

    Sorry, taking this into a musings/wondering about the Ryan Braun case place -

    The other thing about this whole case is that the info was leaked, so all the stuff about player appeals going 0-14 or whatever aren’t exactly relevant. Theoretically, there could have been failures that were tossed out or overturned at the stage at which the Braun case is/was and the public wouldn’t know because the proceedings aren’t public at that phase, unless they’re leaked. That is, discussion of the 0-14 in appeal records were premature because at that point the case hadn’t even yet reached the stage of formal appeal. We don’t know what the previous record of overturn is in cases like Braun’s current situation because any previous overturn would have happened behind closed doors without public knowledge.

    I still think it’s highly unlikely he avoids suspension, but there’s actually much that’s unique about this case.

    I hope, that above all, this case prompts some robust discussion about drug testing policies, transparency, false-positive AND false-negative rates and many of the other issues that are handled today by what are ostensibly military tribunals, and are judged extremely harshly and firmly by the public despite a woeful lack of knowledge about the process itself.

    …Of course the other question to ask, is what is the logic/justification of banning a substance that is not performance enhancing. They say it was a banned substance but not a performance enhancer. Discounting recreational drugs and the like, why ban substances that don’t enhance performance? On what other logical grounds would MLB decide to ban such a substance? The only consideration that springs to my mind is identifying and proactively banning substances that are not performance enhancing on their own, but are either known masking agents for PEDS or catalysts of other substances – some substances don’t do much on their own, but drastically amplify the effect of other substances.

    Finally, if this was a private medical issue – why not consult with the league about it? Performance enhancers are used all the time in league-approved settings. A “cortisone injection” is the administration of steroids, but it’s done knowingly, above the table, with the league’s implicit, if not explicit, approval and in the context of a medical need. So, if a player has a personal medical condition that requires he take a substance that is not considered performance enhancing, but is in fact on the banned list for other reasons, then wouldn’t that player have a pretty good case to go to league and say, look, here’s the situation and here are my doctor’s recommendations. I’d like permission to take X. Feel free to have independent medical experts review the context of my request and let me know your situation. …Maybe he thought about that but didn’t want to take the risk of being declined and raising the flag, so he tried to go incognito. Again, who knows…

    But, the way I look at the situation, if you take the personal medical issue at face value is – if a player had a prescription for medical marijuana, wouldn’t MLB have to accommodate that exception in any drug tests administered to that player? (There may be geographic issues here with laws state-to-state, but I’m talking about “spirit”). So, if that was the case with Braun, why not plead his case for an exception.

  21. Public Enemy #1 said...

    Great piece. You have me convinced. I will be targeting him big time in my auction keeper league. We keep four players each year at their previous years’ cost. If I can steal Braun for something around $28 or so with hopes to snag him for an even lesser discount. That would be a nice haul for the following year considering his usual $42 price tag in my league.

  22. Dawg said...

    I haven’t heard anyone comment about the loss of Fielder. Braun has a 100% chance of doing worse without Prince. He’ll surely get significantly worse pitches to hit leading to less HRs, RBI, lower AVG. and less steals. Plus less Rs since Prince won’t be hitting him in. Even without the suspension, I wouldn’t take him in the 1st round.

  23. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Dawg- You had some valid points. But you lost me when you made this statement:

    “Even without the suspension, I wouldn’t take him in the 1st round.”

    I think you are the only person. I repeat, only person, that would make this statement. It just seems like hyperbole with the proven track record of success he has maintained. To automatically reduce all five categories because of the departure of Prince Fielder is not a statistically backed statement.

    You’d have to show me where the losing of protection leads to less steals, RBIs, and lower AVG. Additionally, the prospect of Aramis Ramirez hitting behind him is not like Dee Gordon or some other inept hitter so you can’t assume that Braun lays an egg in HRs and Rs.

  24. Zenguerrilla said...

    I didn’t know herpes medication could be used to enhance performance….anyways, if they do acknowledge that lets say…herpes medication… caused the positive test, I don’t think it is fair to treat it like steroids.  It would be like equating beer with heroin imho.

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