We'll have a better idea in the next few days, when the MLB arbitration panel must render its verdict on Braun's positive PED test. Fleeting reports suggest he might beat the rap, but the more likely outcome of upholding the 50-game suspension would solidify what fake teams have been bracing for.
Are you willing to pay the tax of clogging a bench spot for upwards of two months, or however long the ruling body decides? Some will say yes at mixed Round 3 or 4 because (a) a prorated Braun season, in theory, trumps most 150-gamers and (b) outfield is the deepest pool of warm offensive bodies and the easiest position to front-fill. A commitment to a long-term plan is required, as well.
Though you could still make up ground by the time he resurfaces, what if the rest of your squad decides to hibernate? He'll stare at you like a tantalizing trust fund you must wait to cash out. Tom Petty, in fact, knows the waiting is the hardest part.
Many point to the motivation factor of the five-category stud tearing it up whenever he's allowed back on a diamond in order to justify he doesn't need pharmaceutical assistance. But such a desire could also yield negative fallout - pressing, over-swinging - and he won't have Prince Fielder to help out.
PEDs don't manufacture skills; they augment talent. Still, if the suspension is approved, we'll have little choice, regardless of how much we'll ever truly know, but to weigh the authenticity of his track record. Even if he's exonerated, the skepticism cloud won't disappear. "Is he cheating in some other way?"
Luckily, we'll know the details before the majority of drafts occur, and it's not like he'll sit on his posterior during any furlough. Braun is one of the few players you'd consider exorbitantly buying for long-term storage, but the micromanagement involved in working around his "SUSP" roster slot could become tedious, especially in leagues with small reserve units.
Expect to pay something around $30, on the optimistic side, in most dual-Circuit auctions. Deep mixed and mono drafters, in all likelihood, won't hesitate to run the price up higher on elite talent, even with an abridged contribution window. In most cases, you're better off letting the other combatants fight for his services, but don't pass up a favorable buying opportunity if he slips through the cracks.
Who'll take Prince Fielder's former job?
First base is the other gaping hole Milwaukee could be carrying ... for a much longer period than any Braun exile. The initial plan is to give the stone-handed post-hyper Mat Gamel first crack. Though he was getting older for the level, he improved his contact skills in another go-round at Triple-A Nashville.
The lightened glove workload at first base could help him focus, too. His raw power reeks of approaching 20 homers with a sustained opportunity, and if he bumps his clip up to, say, .260, that's a victory. He hits the ball hard enough to accomplish that and validate a deep mixed flier.
Despite Milwaukee's commitment to the 26-year-old, outfielder Corey Hart could enter the picture, too. The Brew Crew drafted him at the position in 2000. He has taken some reps at the scoop spot and could displace Gamel against southpaws. For however long Ryan Braun is suspended, Hart could gain valuable 1B fantasy eligibility, especially if Gamel flames out and Ron Roenicke enjoys Nyjer Morgan, Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez splitting duties among the three outfield patches.
Count righty bat Taylor Green as a wild card and platoon alternative at the 3. Sure, the Pacific Coast League aided his tater output, but the 25-year-old boasts some pop and controls the strike zone, making him worth an NL-only grab at CI (or MI, if eligible).
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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