By many accounts Ryan Braun disappointed in 2010. A certainty in the first round heading into the year, his performance has left many fantasy owners on the fence on whether they should once again spend an early round pick on him.
Let’s take a look (please note, when I talk about the first round I am referring to a standard, 12-team league):
2010 Campaign: Braun “struggled” en route to hitting .304 with 25 HR, 103 RBI, 101 R and 14 SB. Granted, the numbers were a regression across the board (he hit .320 with 32 HR, 114 RBI, 113 R and 20 SB in 2009), but are they really numbers that we should be upset with?
There were only nine players in baseball who had at least 100 RBI and 100 R in 2010 and only one other was an outfielder (Carlos Gonzalez). It certainly is an accomplishment that is often overlooked, but one that is extremely important to fantasy owners.
What happened: The struggles of Prince Fielder appeared to hurt Braun, as the Brewers toyed with flipping the two in the lineup. It quickly became clear that Braun excels in the third spot, but struggled when moved into the cleanup role:
- Hitting 3rd – .330, 22 HR, 81 RBI in 464 AB
- Hitting 4th – .243, 3 HR, 21 RBI in 136 AB
We’ve discussed Fielder’s struggles with runners in scoring position in 2010 before (.233, 2 HR, 47 RB), numbers that surely can’t continue. That alone should help Braun improve on his numbers in 2011.
Outside of that black hole, the peripherals appear to be consistent:
- Braun posted a BABIP of .331, compared to a career mark of .336
- His fly ball rate was 34.9%, compared to a 34.1% mark in 2009
- His HR/FB rate was at 14.0%, compared to 17.8% for his career (this is the one number that you have to expect him to improve upon in 2011)
Yes, his average was worse at home (.266) then on the road (.336), but that is not something to be concerned about. His BABIP at home was .275, compared to .381 on the road, meaning while one will likely rise the other will fall. There’s nothing to be concerned about there.
His power did struggle consistently in 2010, never hitting more then six home runs in a month (September). While that could be a concern, he’s only had four months in his career of more then seven. In 2009 when he hit 32 HR, he never had more then seven in a month.
What to expect in 2011: In fact, he improved on his strikeout rate for the fourth consecutive season (down to 17.0%). If he can maintain that, coupled with a likely improvement in the power department, his average should again be well above .300. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he challenged .320, as he has done twice in his four year Major League career.
There is also reason to believe that the power could easily rebound to around 30, if not more. Couple that with the consistent threat that he steals 15-20 bases in a season and he’s appealing right off the bat.
Throw in an improvement from Prince Fielder, likely locking him in to potentially go 100/100 for the third consecutive season, and there is a lot to like. The fact is, very few players in baseball can hit .300 while going 25/15 (if not better), as well as going 100/100.
Just to make things even more appealing, outfield is not as deep as it once was. Getting a player of his ability at the position is extremely alluring.
It’s just too much value to overlook. For me, Braun is a lock in the first round.
What about for you? Would you select Braun in the first round of 2011? Why or why not?
Make sure to check out our previous first round pick analysis articles: