Photo by Benjamin Kabek
There is pretty much a consensus this year that Albert Pujols should go off the board first overall, and Hanley Ramirez seems to be locked in as the #2 selection in most peoples minds. After that, let the games begin.
Some think it should be Miguel Cabrera. He worries me because of his off the field issues.
Some think it should be Troy Tulowitzki because of his massive production from a scarce position (shortstop). I’m troubled by the fact that he has played less than 125 games in two of the past three years.
Some say Carlos Gonzalez. The guy hit .289 with eight homers on the road last year and he’s only had one season of significance in the big leagues.
Some say Evan Longoria. I think he’s the top third baseman this year, but I don’t think third base is as shallow as some think (not if guys like Mark Reynolds and Pablo Sandoval are still on the board after 125 names have been called out).
What about Joey Votto or Robinson Cano? Nope.
Roy Halladay? Don’t get crazy on me.
I think the clear option at #3 overall is Ryan Braun, a guy who has an ADP of about nine. Here is my argument for why Braun should be #3 (in fact, I’ll go you one further and say that I think Carl Crawford should be taken 4th overall – see the Top-300 for 2011).
THE CASE FOR BRAUN
In four big league seasons, Braun has never hit less than .285.
He has never hit fewer than 25 homers.
He has never had fewer than 97 RBI.
He has never scored less than 91 runs.
He has never stolen less than 14 bases.
That means in four seasons in the majors Braun has never produced a batting line of less than .285-25-97-91-14. Last year there were only four men in all of baseball who hit all of the marks (Braun, Pujols, Votto and CarGo), and those are the four year lows for Braun.
(2) Across the Board production
I went through the numbers above but just so it registers like it should…
Over the past four years there have been only 16 seasons of .285-25-97-91-14. Braun has fully a quarter of them meaning every other player in baseball has a grand total of 12 such seasons, or on average just three a year. Moreover, only three other men in the game have had two such seasons the past four years: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and David Wright.
Braun played only 113 games as a rookie, but that was because he was called up during the season from the minors. The past three years he has dealt with a myriad of bumps and bruises, but each of those years he has appeared in at least 151 games. The last three years only 12 players have appeared in at least 151 games each campaign. It doesn’t matter how great you are, if you aren’t on the field your overall production just won’t stack up the elites of the game.
Braun has just under four full seasons in the big leagues and he is only 27 years old. I don’t buy into the “27 year old breakout” hype, but the fact is that Braun could easily still have more to give at the dish. That is particularly intriguing given that his best 5×5 numbers thus far would result in a 5×5 effort of .324-37-114-113-20. Do you know how many such seasons have been produced in the 20th century? The answer is none. Moreover, over the last twenty years those five marks have only been reached in one season on three occasions: Ellis Burks (1996), Larry Walker (1997) and Barry Bonds (1993).
You could raise arguments such as position scarcity and the fact that Braun has seen his ground ball rate rise substantially the past two years as reasons to pass on Braun at the number three overall spot, but to me it’s pretty clear that he would seem to have the least risk of any of the players who are consistently going in the top-10 after Pujols and Hanley are off the board. In my mind that is a huge factor that should be taken into consideration when you think about who you are going to take if you have the #3 spot on draft day.
By Ray Flowers