Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Brain vs. Braun: Fantasy Baseball Impact of Ryan Braun’s PED Allegations

As you are most likely aware, Milwaukee Brewer’s outfielder and reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for having a banned Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) in his system. As a result, he now faces a 50-game suspension from major league baseball. Many observers have been quick to condemn the slugger but it is probably best to reserve judgment on Braun until all of the facts are known. Regardless, what is important in fantasy baseball circles are the implications this will have on Ryan Braun’s fantasy value in 2012.

According to many, Braun was at the top of most lists which rank the top fantasy outfielders for 2012. That is surely to change with the allegations that have come to light.  Not only does this affect Braun’s fantasy value, it has an effect on where other outfielders are ranked as well as an indirect effect on the value of his Milwaukee teammates.

With Prince Fielder likely leaving town via free agency, Braun was already faced with hitting in the middle of a Brewers batting order without one of the best power threats in the game protecting him in the line up. This would be a major concern to a less talented offensive player but is still bound to have some degree of effect on Braun’s statistics. Being asked to carry a larger portion of the offensive load puts him in a greater leadership role with the team. These accusations of cheating make it more difficult for Braun to be viewed in a leadership capacity by his teammates, his management or fantasy owners.

Regardless of a player’s ability to put up monster offensive numbers (and Braun is very capable of this), missing 50 games will greatly reduce his fantasy value. In 150 games last season, Braun amassed 109 runs, 33 home runs and 111 RBI. A season truncated by 50 games looks more like 72 runs, 22 home runs and 73 RBI. These numbers are not bad if your name is Freddie Freeman but certainly knock Braun significantly down the list of offensive players. For those fantasy players in head-to-head leagues, missing Braun for the first 2 months could be devastating. Draft accordingly.

If Braun faces a suspension, the effect will be also felt by his teammates. Expect newly signed third basemen Aramis Ramirez to hit in the middle of the line up and get the lion’s share of RBI opportunities. If he stays healthy, Ramirez could be a nice fantasy corner infielder. Also, don’t expect to see Corey Hart hitting out of the lead-off spot as he did at times last season. His bat will be needed in the heart of the order and will affect his numbers accordingly.

Until his appeal is heard and judgment passed, it would be safe to treat Braun as though he will miss the first 50 games of the 2012 season. In fantasy draft terms, that should put him firmly in the company of outfielders such as Alex Rios or Adam Jones

Perhaps the most important fantasy baseball impact in this whole situation is the status of Matt Kemp who instantly becomes the top fantasy baseball outfielder for 2012.

* Ryan Braun photo by Steve Paluch on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "ryan-braun") [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Prince Fielder photo by Cropped by Killervogel5  shgmom56 (Original version) Killervogel5 (Crop) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 
* Aramis Ramirez photo by Terren Peterson (originally posted to Flickr as Aramis) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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