This offseason proved to be rough on the Milwaukee Brewers. Their star player has been linked to performance enhancing drugs, and their right-fielder will miss the beginning of the season with a knee injury, and will now be playing first base. All of this seems strangely familiar, no? But both issues proved to be overblown last year. Ryan Braun‘s test was overturned, leading to another strong performance. Corey Hart returned from his knee injury and didn’t miss a beat, basically posting his career-averages with slightly more power. If they hope to contend, the Brewers need a repeat performance this season.
Hart was a candidate to reprise his role as the team’s right fielder before Mat Gamel was again lost for the season. As it stands, Norichicka Aoki will receive the bulk of the playing time at the position. Even when Hart comes back, he’ll be utilized at first base. Aoki surprised many last year, hitting .288/.355/.433 with solid power and speed. There’s a question over whether he’ll hit for as much power again. Aoki’s ground ball rate was 55.4%, one of the highest figures in the league. His approach at the plate, solid plate discipline and strong contact skills means he’ll probably hit for a pretty solid average. He’s a solid mid-to-late round draft pick based on a solid slash line and ability to steal a ton of bases. Hitting at the top of the Brewers’ strong lineup should ensure he’ll score a ton of runs.
Carlos Gomez had his major-league debut in 2007, but didn’t become a useful fantasy asset until last year. Gomez has always been a threat on the bases, but finally added some power last season, slugging 19 home runs in just 452 plate appearances. Even with the mini-breakout, he still has big flaws. Gomez strikes out a ton, meaning he’s never going to hit for a high average. He doesn’t walk either, significantly cutting his value in leagues that count on-base percentage as a category. With all the injuries the club’s outfield has already suffered, Gomez should receive a ton of playing time. If he can retain his power, he’ll be an interesting late-round pick. But don’t expect a high average.
Ryan Braun remains one of the best outfielders, hell, players, in fantasy baseball, and will likely be a top-5 pick in every draft. Entering his age-29 season, there’s no reason to believe he’s going to slow down. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the big issue. Braun’s name surfaced in Anthony Bosch’s records, making his status a bit cloudy. In fairness, Braun was not a part of the initial report since the Miami New Times couldn’t prove he was linked to performance enhancing drugs. It’s unclear if MLB will, or even can, take action after doing their own investigation. From what we know right now, having names and prices on a piece of paper won’t hold up in court. If there’s more to the story, that would change things significantly. For what it’s worth, I’m not pushing Braun any further down my draft list given the news. I’ve been employing a wait-and-see approach the entire time, and will take him with confidence. If you feel differently, adjust his draft position as you see fit.
If Braun were to miss time, Logan Schafer could get a chance in left. He can steal some bases, but doesn’t do much else all that well. You’re not going to want him on your fantasy team even if he’s guaranteed a full-time role until Braun returns.
The Brewers enter the year in an extremely familiar scenario. They managed to survive relatively unscathed last season, and will hope for a repeat in the coming months. As one of the top picks in the draft, Braun’s value would be greatly affected if MLB decides to act on the Biogenesis information. Follow that story closely as the season approaches, but there’s no reason to push him down your draft board just yet.