Key Stats: Remember that Ryan Braun was only in year three of his career last year. With the season that he had as a rookie in 2007, there are arguments that Braun should be doing more than he is. Yet in some areas he is making steady progress. Sure the home runs took a small drop last season, but Braun increased his walks by about 2% and decreased his strikeouts by about the same amount. That helped him set a career high in OBP and not coincidentally runs scored. Health was never an issue last year so Braun also tallied 113 RBI.
Skeptics Say: Versus right handed pitching Braun is essentially just above average for an outfielder. Teams will obviously key in on that this year and stay away from lefties late in games given that Prince Fielder is really good against both lefties and righties and hits behind Braun.
Peer Comparison: The number one outfielder off the board a season ago was Grady Sizemore who also was ranked right around number five by most. Looking at the stats that were the basis for why the two players fell where they did (Braun’s 09 and Sizemore’s 08), and the seasons before those it’s clear that Braun is less of a first round risk.
Braun – 113 R 32 HR 114 RBI 20 SB .320 AVG .937 OPS
Sizemore – 101 R 33 HR 90 RBI 38 SB .268 AVG .877 OPS
Sizemore had career highs in RBI, steals, and home runs in his huge year. Sizemore’s RBI total was clearly a fluke coming from the lead off spot. He is also an annual batting average tanker. Braun’s career highs last year came in categories that are out of his control for the most part – runs and RBI. He’s already been around .300 before and been on pace to steal close to 20 bases too. Given that the power has been even greater his ceiling in that category is much greater than where he performed last year.
Lineup Outlook: Nobody on the Brewers roster has registered more spring at-bats than Carlos Gomez. Where he hits in the order is still unclear, but he has led off this spring. Rickie Weeks and Alcides Escobar appear to be the two other guys who would hit either first or second in this order. None of these players come across as on base machines, but the Brewers would be best sticking Gomez and his glove in the number eight hole given his .287 OBP from a season ago.
Projection: Here’s to facing Randy Wolf, Jaime Garcia, Zach Duke, Wandy Rodriguez, Ted Lilly, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzellany, and Doug Davis – the lefties of the NL Central.
118 R 38 HR 107 RBI 15 SB .306 AVG .950 OPS
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