Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Drafting Ryan Braun

by Todd Zola, on January 30, 2012 @ 09:13:54 PDT


Hi all and welcome to the third gathering of Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. Today we will ask our knights how they plan to go about dealing with Ryan Braun in the event he has his suspension upheld and is forced to serve the entire pending 50-game suspension.

QUESTION: Let's talk Ryan Braun. If you are in a draft or auction before his appeal is ruled on, where would you draft him or how much would you pay? How about if it is announced he will miss 50 games, where will you consider taking him in leagues drafting after the ruling?

Nick Minnix gets us rolling:

I prefer to avoid paying more than 30, 35 bucks for any player, so I doubt it'd be that much. If we found out that he's definitely gone for 50, well ... I haven't followed it closely enough, I've just been operating under the assumption that the suspension will be upheld. Perhaps the delay for the hearing is reason enough to rethink that?

Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun
Brains over Braun?

I'd be much more inclined to buy him in a mixed league, where it'd be a hell of a lot easier to front-fill his spot for the first, what, two months? So, I guess, something like $15, $20? He goes for more, though, no? I imagine that there's going to be a smart guy in the room who's willing to pay more for him than I would be, in most cases.

What's the layoff going to do to him? I'm sure he'll do just fine, but questions like that come with my approach - not to overpay for quote-unquote certainty. In an NL league, he could end up being a more valuable purchase, and I'd spend $20, maybe $25 on him, off the top of my head, but I'm not a fan of budgeting for replacements and whatnot and suspect that he'd go for more.

In a mixed league draft, he needs to be gone in the first four or five rounds, and I'd definitely take a long look in the fourth. He's an outfielder, though; I guess the prospect doesn't excite me as much as it might others.

Tim Heaney is a tad more open to the idea:

I would've picked him up with the second to last pick of the fourth round (51st overall) in the recent 13-team, 29-round Fantasy Sports Trade Association draft, but he was plucked a few picks before me. That's fair value for the optimistic in serpentine mixed formats.

There are faint whispers he could beat the rap, but don't bank on it. Either way, I'd probably cap my bid at about $20 in a mixed auction and $30, if I'm feeling randy, in an NL-only process. Keeper leagues could justifiably go higher than those prices; he still has plenty of prime years left, and the scope of filling two months' worth of games becomes even smaller.

Of course, committing to Braun in single-year setups is a circumstantial consideration you can't put in a box. I could imagine exceeding my stated values based on draft flow and the fact that outfield is the easiest offensive position to front- or backfill. Since this is a suspension and not an injury, you can easily plan around having Braun on your bench for one-third of the season. At least you know it'll last 50 games, which facilitates your roster management.

Sure, it could become a hassle trying to juggle your bench, but that's what benches are for. His five-tool skill set, even without Prince Fielder to complement it, is one of the few for which I'd make such an arrangement. Until we know more, you can't assume a failed test was the result of performance-enhancers, so you can't yet write it off as "He's off the juice, so he's going to stumble." Heckuvan ace to have in the hole, right?

Perry van Hook has already drafted several times so he speaks from experience:

Obviously your attitude about drafting Ryan Braun (right now) is shaped by your league format and your risk tolerance.

Mixed league draft - I too think his value is 4th round and I have been willing to "pay" that but he has gone earlier (2nd round and early 4th) in leagues drafting in December and January. Of course in a mixed league draft in November before any hint of the failed test or suspension I was grinning a like a Cheshire cat taking him at 1.04. Taking him in that redraft format assumes you have bench slots where you can put him in the corner until the suspension is lifted or served and play outfielder X for the first two months of the season.

NL-only keeper leagues I don't really think his auction price or draft spot goes down too much but again that may be adversely influenced by league rules.

NL-only redraft rules is probably the one arena where I wouldn't take him until a point so low that someone else will have already rostered him.

Lawr Michaels does not anticipate owning Braun:

I don't like paying $30 or more either, if I can get away with it, so I am with Nick there.

And, though I like gambles, I have never really gotten a sense that Braun was worth my attention, not that he is not good, but he was a tad pricey since day one. So, I would not have overpaid, and I am not one to draft outfielders early in a draft situation.

I do look upon Braun as like Chase Utley: when he is playing, he is as good as anyone, so like Utley, if you get a good 110 games from him, Braun is worth it, like Utley is.

That said, I think late fourth or early fifth round is a good fit.

Although I won't be touching him in any format that I know of.

Brian Walton reminds us:

The good news in all of this is that Braun's case was heard late last week in New York and the arbitration panel is required to rule no later than February 14 - so all the cards should be on the table long before most leagues draft for real. For what it is worth, it was Dan Patrick who was quoted as saying he thinks Braun may be acquitted. If so, I would draft Braun just as if this never happened. In an auction format, like Nick and others, Braun is too rich for my tastes and the suspension or lack of it won't change that.

Ryan Carey shares his opinion:

I thought Braun was going to be overpriced coming off last year's MVP campaign even before the suspension news, so at least now he has dropped to a point where I actually started thinking about drafting him again. I passed on him as a second-round choice in a recent 15-team mixed draft (Pick 26) and admit he would have been considered for Pick 35, but went at 33. I think I would have been tempted to gamble, with news of the suspension still pending, but despite that he is not a player I am targeting in drafts this year as I am resigned to the fact that there will always be someone willing to pay more than I will for his services. In auctions, he may very well be the first name I toss out there, while everyone has lots of money to burn, and then I'll just sit back and watch the fireworks.

Zach Steinhorn thinks he makes a good keeper:

In a single-season league, I don't think I'll be willing to invest what it will take to get Braun. He's generally going in the third round in mocks, ahead of outfielders like Jay Bruce and Hunter Pence, and, as great as Braun is, I'll take 162 games of Pence over 112 games of Braun. In a keeper league it's a different story. Secretly, for selfish reasons of course, I'm actually hoping the suspension holds up. What a great opportunity to draft Braun at even a small discount and reap the rewards in future seasons! In my NL-only keeper, for instance, Braun will certainly be on my radar as players can be signed to contracts, freezing their salaries for up to two additional years. In this format, I might go as high as 30 bucks for him and sacrifice those 50 games for the greater good. Ultimately, it comes down to league format and, in the case of dynasty-style keeper leagues, whether you are poised to contend for a title in 2012 or if you plan to rebuild and have the luxury to be a little more patient.

Chris Kreush has his doubts:

Braun returned about $45 of value in 2011. In hindsight, I think in the back of most people's minds (OK, maybe just mine) is how much of that value was inflated from whatever the substance was he was using. Unfortunately, that's the fallout from the whole steroids era for me anyway. In a redraft, I might be willing to spend up to $20 if Braun gets the whole 50 games as most expect. But I'd much rather roster someone like Carlos Gonzalez or Justin Upton for the whole season rather than Braun plus a 50-game fill-in. In a keeper league, I'd go more than the $20 but not as high as full value if there was no illegal substance involved. Spend more on the front but hope to get a bargain in later years. But I suspect many people will be trying the same strategy in a keeper league so the odds of me owning Braun at all in 2012 is just about zero.

Lord Zola's wrap up:

In the name of full disclosure, before the suspension was announced, Braun was my number one player. I am big on reliability and his track record is now long enough to score at the top of the reliability scale. The other three players in contention for the top overall spot were Matt Kemp, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols. Braun bested Kemp on track record, Pujols on being less injury prone and Cabrera due to the steals in his repertoire. For what it is worth, Pujols sits solidly on my top perch, even after the news that Miguel Cabrera will be playing third. I do not believe the extra consideration Miggy gets due to position is enough to assuage my concerns over injury and having to miss a little more time playing the hot corner.

The reason I opted for this question was the fact I spent a couple days last week in Bristol, Connecticut, as a consultant for the World Wide Leader. I have been helping out ESPN with their projections and rankings and was invited to their recent Fantasy Baseball Summit. Because the crew was only going to be together in the same room for this two-day affair, we decided to rank Braun "The Clean" and Braun, "The Dirty." If Braun has his suspension dropped, he will be fourth on the ESPN top-250. If he is suspended for fifty games, he will be number 39. Of course this means MLB will opt to reduce his penalty to 25 games and we will have to rank Braun "The Semi-Dirty."

What we did was put his suspension adjusted stats up against other players and slotted him at the spot where his raw numbers put him in comparison to the other players. It turned out his closest comps were Hunter Pence and Jay Bruce, with Braun being just a tick below. The next outfielder after Braun was Josh Hamilton. The room was a bit concerned about Hamilton's ability to stay healthy.

Based on some very wise advice above, you may be questioning why we did not give Braun an allowance for the ability to use a replacement player in his stead. Something to realize, not just here but anytime you look at a set of rankings, is they are completely contextual. First and foremost, the rankings we did were for the ESPN home game, which is a ten-team mixed format. More importantly, you only have three reserve spots, though you do have an unlimited disabled list. The problem is, a suspended Braun has to be stashed on reserve; he is not eligible for the DL. This ties up a valuable reserve spot, hindering your ability to manage your roster as fluidly as your competitors. While we could not quantify it, the assumption was this handcuff countered the ability to deploy a replacement player for 50 games.

That said, depending on your league rules, if you can add 50 games worth of someone akin to Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel or Cody Ross to your early season roster, you can take Braun a little earlier than his stats in a vacuum suggest.

In my present rankings, Braun checks in at $20, the 41st ranked player overall. This makes him a 4th-rounder in 12-team mixed and a 3rd-rounder in 15-team mixed. Adding a rather modest 6 HR, 3 SB, 20 runs and 20 RBI while dropping his average a few points renders Braun a $31 player, elevating him to 13th overall. So if you are able to stash him on reserve without impacting your ability to manage your team for the first third of the season, Braun could be a sneaky value play.

Glossed over in this is something a couple of my knights alluded to, and that is what if after 50 games, we do not see the Ryan Braun to which we are accustomed? What if his performance has indeed been enhanced? How will the loss of Prince Fielder affect Braun's production? Will Braun's timing be there? What kind of shape will he be in? And what about his mental state? Will he press?

Personally, I am not sure we can quantify any of this, but one thing I do know is this now takes away the reliability points I described earlier. There are just too many questions. In fact, if Braun is exonerated and plays the full season, I will have him third overall on my overall ranking, behind Pujols and Cabrera, though it will be pretty close.

At the end of the day, the means to rank Ryan Braun is a two-step process. First, look at it objectively, figuring out his worth if you get to use another player in his stead, taking into consideration what that does to your ability to manage your team. Then approach it subjectively, accessing the risk associated with all the ancillary aspects of the situation and adjust his rank accordingly.

Remember to keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for the announcement of our next discussion topic.

Todd is the Content Manager for the Mastersball Platinum Subscription product, featuring frequently updated player projections, values, rankings and profiles along with unique Excel tools, Minor League rankings and cutting edge strategy essays. Click HERE for details.

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About Todd Zola,

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at and, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums. Fantasy Baseball

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