Replacing Ryan Braun

The weekend produced one of the most surprising and most controversial stories of the past decade in baseball. Ryan Braun tested positive for increased testosterone levels in a random drug test during the 2011 Postseason, which violates the new steroid policy implemented by Major League Baseball.

Sources have suggested that Braun did not test positive for performance-enhancing drugs or steroids, but for a “prohibited substance” that caused his testosterone levels to jump significantly. Sources have also stated that the MLB has never seen results such as this and that there were “highly unusual circumstances” surrounding the test and the results — not limited to reported chain-of-custody issues within the testing and results that produced twice as much testosterone than has ever been seen in a previous test.

The saga began with the entire baseball world lamenting what can only be called a loss of innocence. One of the poster boys for the new, clean MLB tested positive for PEDs. This wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. Immediately, many folks even started to call for Braun’s MVP to be revoked.

Now, after more specifics about the test and results have been leaked — presumably by people close to Braun — a myriad of questions are swirling. People want answers, and because the arbitration process will probably drag out until January, those answers will not come quickly.

Shifting the focus to the 2012 season, Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin has many challenges this winter — replacing Prince Fielder’s production, upgrading shortstop, upgrading third base, and fitting the bloated contract of Francisco Rodriguez into the budget. Now, Melvin and the Brewers could be without their best player for the first 50 games of the season.

How does Doug Melvin replace Ryan Braun (if that turns out to be necessary)?

It’s important to recognize that precisely replicating the production of Ryan Braun is all but impossible. He compiled a .433 wOBA and 179 wRC+ over 629 plate appearances. That type of production was only bested by two players in 2011, both of whom play in the American League: Jose Bautista (.441 wOBA) and Miguel Cabrera (.436 wOBA).

If the Brewers opt not to acquire any new faces prior to Opening Day, the most likely combination in the outfield will have Nyjer Morgan in left, Carlos Gomez in center, and Corey Hart in right. This trio would sacrifice quite a bit at the plate — as the Brewers would essentially be swapping Braun’s .433 wOBA for Gomez’s .307 wOBA — but the group would add a ton of defensive value.

Another internal option would be either Caleb Gindl or Logan Schafer. Both Triple-A outfielders were added to the 40-man roster over the past year and were the leading candidates for the team’s fifth outfielder role in 2012. Gindl is a 23-year-old corner outfielder who hit .307/.390/.472 in the Pacific Coast League with 15 home runs and a .165 ISO. Schafer split time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2011, hitting .315/.385/.439 over 99 games.

Schafer is the more polished player — especially defensively — but possesses less power upside with the bat. In the end, though, both are expected to be nothing more than fourth outfielders, so the overall impact from either player would likely be marginal.

The final internal option would be more complicated and is predicated on the Brewers signing Aramis Ramirez — which could happen as soon as this week — but Casey McGehee could move to first base and Mat Gamel could shift to left field. Gamel has played exactly 9.1 innings in left field, but has the best bat of the internal options. The 26-year-old hit .310/.372/.540 in Triple-A last season.

Of course, Doug Melvin and the Brewers could look toward the free agent market to fill the potential hole, as well. Fred Lewis, Jonny Gomes, or Scott Hairston are all available bench outfielders that could slide into a starting role for a couple months and potentially bring positive value. Ryan Ludwick is another potential corner outfielder with some pop that could serve as a bench bat after Braun’s return.

Milwaukee has a plethora of possibilities available to them. Luckily, left field is one of the easiest positions to fill for a short period of time. However, any of the above options would leave the Brewers in a tough position in terms of scoring runs, as Braun is the absolute anchor of the batting order.

Assuming the Brewers sign Aramis Ramirez — and they seem to be the only legitimate suitor at this point — here is the projected Opening Day batting order:

RF Corey Hart
LF Nyjer Morgan
2B Rickie Weeks
3B Aramis Ramirez
1B Mat Gamel
SS Alex Gonzalez
C Jonathan Lucroy
CF Carlos Gomez
P Yovani Gallardo

There are a million reasons why it would be better for the Brewers to have Ryan Braun win his appeal. But look at that batting order. First and foremost, the Brewers need Ryan Braun’s bat in the lineup for the first 50 games of 2012.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

22 Responses to “Replacing Ryan Braun”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    Might they grab Carlos Quentin from the White Sox? Then move him to RF and Hart to 1B when Braun returns

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    • tier1dc says:

      If you factor in how bad Kenny Williams has been with trades lately the Brewers should be able to get Quentin for a Rule 5 Draft pick.

      Getting Carlos for the Brewers would help them though. Would work out well.

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    • Tex says:

      Hart has repeatedly stated that he does not want to move to 1B under any circumstances

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  2. Uncle Randy says:

    I’m really interested in the first part of your article, namely, WTF HAPPENED? Did he or didn’t he, what are some explanations for having that much testosterone in your system (aside from being a BOSS), etc.

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  3. Expos67 says:

    Braun should have done an oil change.

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  4. tcnjsteve says:

    Mets have a right-handed left fielder they’d be happy to part with…

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  5. Jamie says:

    It doesn’t matter what he took or how his testosterone got so high. the fact is that they were above the number that MLB permits.

    i don’t see anyway that this gets overturned. The player is responsible for his body and everything that goes in it.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Yes, the player is responsible for everything that goes into his body. But the argument is that he didn’t take anything and that the test was flawed.

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      • cpebbles says:

        Conclusively proven by the fact that he and his agent had their own test performed some time later and it came back negative. Man, people are such cynics these days!

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      • Greg says:


        Braun took his own test three weeks after his dirty UA. The test showed normal testosterone levels. However, that is not unusual for dopers. Going from normal testrosterone levels, to high, and then back to normal is common for people on a steroid cycle. And depending on the steroid, the testosterone levels can go from abnormally high to normal in a just a matter of hours. There is one particular drug that boosts testosterone levels to 80:1 and then back to normal (1:1) within 12 hours.

        And this is why It is very tough to get caught doping. Unless MLB tests every player on a daily basis, most players who are using steroids will continue to use without ever getting caught.

        Again, I am reserving my judgment until I hear more facts. But it’s not looking good for Ryan Braun.

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  6. vivalajeter says:

    Remember when people acted like Jose Reyes cheated Braun out of a batting title by skipping his last few at bats of the season? Boy how things change…

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    • John says:

      The fact is Jose Reyes still cheated Braun out of the batting title. Don’t see how this changes that at all.

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      • lolwut says:

        Reyes had a higher avg with the required number of plate appearances. Ryan Braun (allegedly) literally cheated.

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  7. Yirmiyahu says:

    The simplest thing would be to sign a guy who can hit lefties (Jonny Gomes, Scott Hairston, Reed Johnson) to platoon with Nyjer Morgan.

    As Eminor3rd mentions, isn’t a big part of this discussion predicated on the 1B solution? Are the Brewers really going to go into the season with only Mat Gamel and Casey McGehee at 1B?

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  8. thomkay07 says:

    How embarrassing is it that that lineup still looks better than the Pirates best case scenario?!

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  9. Vin says:

    I haven’t seen Michael Cuddyer connected to the Brewers much, but he’d be a nice fit. Even with the A-Ram signing about to happen, Cuddyer would still be a good bat that can fill in at all the corner positions, particularly LF and 1B.

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  10. Barry Bonds says:

    That’s my boy.

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  11. fergie348 says:

    One of my other athletic obsessions is pro cycling, which has a disturbingly similar path of rampant abuse followed by more stringent testing and athlete sanction. A quick look through the evidence shows a sport whose participants can’t bring themselves to turn down the help when it could make them millionaires:

    I fear baseball is headed down the same path – we’ll see more of this, and until the testing catches up and you’re almost guaranteed to be banned people will still use. There’s just too much money at stake to refuse the help unless you really believe you will be caught. Guys right now don’t really think they’ll get caught..

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  12. Barry Bonds says:

    Steroids are a helluva drug.

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  13. Greg says:

    I am reserving judgment until I receive more facts. But people should be wary anytime lawyers refer to “chain of custody” issues. Lawyers argue chain of custody when they have nothing else to argue. They may as well argue that Braun was the victim of an alien abduction. That would be more credible.

    Here, the chain of custody issue is MLB sending Ryan Braun’s dirty UA to an independent lab for further testing. (GASP! oh, the horror!) So Braun’s mouthpiece is essentially arguing that MLB shouldn’t have re-tested the sample. If MLB had not sent Braun’s UA to an independent lab, Braun’s lawyer would be arguing that they should have, and he would be demanding that the sample be re-tested. I suspect Braun is paying at least $500/hour for this sort of doublespeak.

    Here’s another doublespeak gem: “Braun’s lawyer, David Cornwell, also said that the positive test was not the result of taking a performance-enhancing drug. ‘He did not take performance-enhancing drugs,’ Cornwell told the Daily News on Sunday, ‘and anyone who writes that is wrong.'”

    The same was true for Manny Ramirez. He was suspended in 2009 for testing positive for hCG, which also is not a performance-enhancing drug. ManRam was using hCG to boost his testosterone production after completing a steroid cycle. It appears from the leaks that Ryan Braun’s story may be similar, but we shall see. In any event, ManRam didn’t make out so well from not taking performance-enhancing drugs.

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