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.