Fantasy Baseball LABR: Ryan Braun continues to torment me

      February 11, 2013 @ 14:23:27 PDT

About a week ago, I looked at drawing the top selection in Tuesday night's LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality) mixed draft as a gift. After news that Ryan Braun appears on a muddily defined list in the now infamous Biogenesis ledger, of course, this opportunity feels like something closer to a curse.

Detroit Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera
Few to no fantasy concerns

Filling my roster for an iconic industry league in February: Feel the nausea.

To think I just wrote about these two a few months ago. Regardless of whether I pass on him or pick him, this might be the second straight LABR year in which Braun screws my team (more accurately, I do so to myself). Post-PED acquittal last season, he didn't go to my No. 3 pick because I decided Joey Votto offered a positional advantage. Boy, I could've used the outfielder's numbers to improve on my fourth-place finish and avoid a significant Votto absence, eh.

Amazing how much first-round controversy a skills stalwart can cause two springs in a row.

Logical questions over the circumstances flew in after Braun's statement, as did clear-headed analysis from people, including Craig Calcaterra and Wendy Thurm, who know much much much much more than I do about legalese. The Miami New Times, who's spearheaded the breakthrough on South Beach's talent enhancement, has reminded readers of the questionable nature of Braun's appearance and their reluctance to focus on him.

I concur with this caution, which might be overlooked in its application to this fantasy decision, due to warranted but potentially overblown anxiety.

Still, if your roster will be filled before the World Baseball Classic and spring training games kick in, consider the chances of Major League Baseball or some other source uncovering more than a "consultant" angle in Braun's camp's dealings with Anthony Bosch.

Considering the likely doggish pace of any investigation and the lack of actionable evidence available, there's little early indication that this will hinder Braun's season. But this department probably has, to some degree, a heightened desire to pursue anything Braun-related, considering their reaction to last year's appeal decision. His University of Miami connection, and that link to Bosch, attracts certain bloodhound tendencies.

Now, transfer these concerns to when you're on the clock.

Even when you have Miguel Cabrera's elite four-category security (don't get me started on Mike Trout) staring the top overall selection in the face, you can't help but finding justifications for taking on the smidge of risk - which, on top of typical injury or performance threats, rests completely out of your control - that Braun will have an abbreviated campaign.

Two-ish months sporting dead weight handicaps any roster and cripples title hopes for most, especially when it's disabling the mother of all investments at the table. What we always tell our readers - draft safety in the first round - knocks a dent into tabbing someone whose at-bats fate might hang in the balance for a more convoluted issue than injury.

Fortunately, most No. 1 pickers of single-year drafts will be lucky enough at least to wait until closer to April and accrue digestible facts that will yield a valid resolution.

Those of us with much smaller timetables (ahem, 24 hours from now) must decide whether the prospect of 30ish stolen bases tacked onto Cabrera's line outweighs the small, but tangible, downside.

I don't meditate much, but this requires some reflection. Plus, for the whole suspense thing, I'll reveal my decision when I lead off LABR.

Follow along with the LABR draft live to see if I take the plunge.

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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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