A year after being a bit unsure about this guy because of his lack of patience and a whole bunch of strikeouts, I’m finally sold on the superlative slugger from the Brewers. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a naysayer last year, but I did have my doubts about whether or not he could be a top-10 fantasy performer (I was thinking more like top-20). Turns out I was wrong. I think Ryan Braun could go 30/30 this year, he seems a fair bet to at go 30/20 as he did last season, and if he continues to show growth in his plate discipline he could rival Albert Pujols in the Triple Crown categories. Given that, I thought it might be fun to compare Pujols and Braun’s first three seasons in the league to one another, though remember that Braun was called up late in 2007 and appeared in only 117 games as a rookie while Pujols appeared in 161 games in his freshman season.
Braun: .308-103-317-296-49 with a .363 OBP and .574 SLG in 1,697 ABs
Pujols: .334-114-381-367-28 with a .412 OBP and .613 SLG in 1,771 ABs
OK, Braun clearly comes up short, but Pujols does arguably own the greatest three season run to open a career of any man who has ever played the game. Therefore, let’s lower the bar a bit and compare Braun’s first three season to some of the best hitters of recent memory to see how he stacks up. In order to make this comparison fair to everyone, I’ll list each players first three “full seasons” in the bigs since no one hits .324 with 34 homers in their rookie season as Braun did. This gives “the field” an advantage over Braun whose numbers come from his true rookie season and following two campaigns. Can anyone use that edge to best Braun’s barometer of success?
Miguel Cabrera: .318-92-342-319-15 with a .394 OBP and .547 SLG in 1,792 ABs
Prince Fielder: .276-112-302-277-12 with a .372 OBP and .536 SLG in 1,730 ABs
Todd Helton: .336-102-358-30-15 with a .415 OBP and .607 SLG in 1,688 ABs
Matt Holliday: .326-89-338-307-35 with a .387 OBP and .571 SLG in 1,171 ABs
Manny Ramirez: .315-90-307-278-16 with a .405 OBP, .559 SLG in 1,595 ABs
Alex Rodriguez: .322-101-331-364-90 with a .375 OBP and .562 SLG in 1,874 ABs
Mark Teixeira: .282-107-340-279-9 with a .362 SLG and .541 SLG in 1,718 ABs
Chase Utley: .310-82-310-328-40 with a .388 OBP and .543 SLG in 1,731 ABs
David Wright: .314-83-325-308-71 with a .396 OBP and .534 SLG in 1,761 ABs
Ryan Braun: .308-103-317-296-49 with a 363/.574/.937 line in 1,697 ABs
Braun is the only player surveyed, other than Pujols and Teixeira, whose production is from his first three seasons in the bigs, while all others were from their first three “full seasons.”
So what does all of this mean? A couple of points stand out.
(1) Braun’s combination of batting average and home runs is nearly unmatched by any of the games current crop of stars. Only Braun, Helton and A-Rod hit at least .305 with 100 homers.
(2) Only A-Rod and Wright can match Braun’s 5×5 talents across the board.
(3) Braun is off to a start that, if not for Albert Pujols, could legitimately be called the best three season run to start a major league players career in 15 years. Sign me up for some bratwursts and Braun Milwaukee as there is little doubt in my mind that he is the top option in the outfield for fantasy leagues in 2010.
By Ray Flowers