Ryan Braun is a hard player – maybe the hardest – to project heading into the 2014 season. Combining the fact the Braun is coming off a season in which he had just nine home runs and 38 RBI in only 61 games and 225 at bats, with the disdain that most people now have for him, Braun is going to be skipped over in many drafts. Another thing worthy of note is that Braun did miss more than a month of the 2013 season due to a thumb injury.
In most fantasy baseball projections, Braun is ranked around 15th overall, which would equate to a middle of the second round pick in most leagues. It seems like a long time ago that Braun was one of the top hitters in the game, but in reality, he has only had one bad year.
Prior to his dismal 2013 campaign, Braun had never hit fewer than 25 home runs and 97 RBI, not to mention he had 33 and 30 stolen bases in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Not many players have the all-around game that Braun had, and who’s to say that he won’t perform at the same level as he did before the fiasco of 2013? How can someone judge how big of an effect that performance enhancing drugs had on his hitting ability?
Braun’s lack of production in 2013 could have been in large part, due to his nagging injury. Of course, it is still likely that Braun’s numbers will not be the same as they were in his MVP-caliber seasons, but just how far will they slip? A drop in both his average and home runs is probable, but even so, he is still likely to hit around .280 with 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases, cementing his status as one of the best hitters in the league.
I believe that Braun is going to have a solid bounce-back season. The Milwaukee Brewers may not be a contender, but the hitters around Braun in the lineup are going to make him better. Having Jean Segura hit in front of Braun is going to certainly increase his RBI chances, plus the hitters behind Braun – Aramis Ramirez, Jonathon Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, and the potential breakout candidate Khris Davis – won’t allow for opposing pitchers to pitch around him.
So where should Braun be drafted? As I mentioned earlier, Braun is projected around 15th overall on most sites, but should he be picked earlier? Of course, this all depends on the league set-up – the amount of teams, NL or AL only versus mixed leagues, and scoring. Assuming the league is a standard mixed 10-team league, if Braun is available when I’m picking in the second round, then I’m pulling the trigger, but I would not stretch too far and take him in the first round. Braun could very easily finish the season as a top ten fantasy player, but avoid taking any risk in the first round – first round picks should always be used on players that will, without a doubt, be consistent.
Braun should be a fantasy stud in 2014. He is going to be entering the season healthy and motivated to disprove all of his doubters. I expect huge things from Braun; if he’s available in the second round, draft him.