[UPDATE: Braun exonerated and will not serve 50-game suspension]
Easily the most talked about player in the off-season (sorry Yu, Prince, and Albert), Ryan Braun probably envisioned his winter months being spent in a more relaxing way. He surely would’ve taken a few trips to South Beach, fist pumping the whole time to club chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” But the University of Miami product has been linked to a leaked failed drug test, triggered by insanely high testosterone levels, which all but ensures the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player will watch the first 50 games from the bench. It’s hard to celebrate with that hanging over your head.
A glimmer of hope shone through, though, when, in late-January, radio host Dan Patrick broke news that a source close to the ruling process gave up information, which Patrick thought should exonerate Braun. Twitter and other social media sites were gossiping like coke-driven sorority girls about what the information could be.
Was the cause of Braun’s elevated testosterone due to a disease?
Was he taking medication for his herpes?
What? Four or five other Milwaukee Brewers failed the test, too? The test must be tainted.
But when nothing came of the Dan Patrick comments, all was quiet around the horn. The appeal hearing came and went. Only silence remained.
Braun is suppose to know his fate by the time he reports to Spring Training on February 24, but small rumors have surfaced that that may be untrue.
Which brings us to the fantasy side of this multi-sided saga. What do you do with Braun? The simple answer is: avoid him. But because fantasy baseball has many different formats and because nobody should have even drafted yet, it’s not wise to just disregard one of the best players in the league. Let’s break this down into two different scenarios: 1) if he isn’t suspended and 2) if he is suspended.
If Braun isn’t suspended, the answer is clear and easy: he’s a top-5 pick on draft day. Without this controversy, I would’ve said he’s the clear-cut overall player (yes, even without Prince Fielder), but this whole process has had to be a drain on him (remember, he didn’t get to fist pump this off-season), so that drops him a few spots, but not much. If he’s not suspended, you take him early first round and he’s good for 100, 30, 100, 30, .310.
But the more likely scenario (as no player has ever won a drug appeal in league history) is Braun’s suspension is upheld, he misses 50 games, and he gets his first at-bat in late-May against would be MVP Matt Kemp and the Dodgers. This scenario makes drafting Braun risky business, depending on which format you’re playing (rotisserie, head-to-head, etc).
If you’re playing in a roto league, it may be in your best interest to steer clear of the Hebrew Hammer. Since in roto you’re compiling stats against the other managers in the league for a full year, rather than week-to-week, you’re going to be out two months production. Meaning you’re going to have to draft a replacement player for the first two months of the season (think Coco Crisp) and then add his stats to Braun’s. Considering Braun’s early ADP is around 40, you’re putting a lot of faith in finding a replacement player who can fill a fifth rounder’s shoes.
Conversely, if you’re playing in a head-to-head league, all you have to do is survive the first two months without Braun. Head-to-head is about making the playoffs. It’s not about being in first place in May. Coco Crisp might not be able to keep you in the top spot, but if you draft well enough, he’s not going to drop you to the cellar, either. Drafting Braun for head-to-head formats is 100% okay; in fact, getting Braun’s skill set in the fifth round could be the steal of the draft and you’ll be fist pumping to your league’s championship.
Projecting Braun (162 games): 100, 30, 100, 30, .310
Projecting Braun (112 games): 80, 23, 78, 23, .310