Player Profile: Ryan Braun

2 03 2008

Ryan Braun had a rookie year for the ages last season. Not even the most optimistic person could have predicted that Ryan would have had 34 HR and 98 RBI, while batting .324 in his first season in the big leagues. The scary thing is that he wasn’t even with the team the whole year. These numbers could have been better had Ryan been on the team in April and early-May. He’ll have a tough act to follow this season…

Strengths:

I cannot even put into words how good Ryan Braun is at the plate. He has immense power to all fields (34 HR) and hits for average (.324) all at the same time. I had a chance to watch Ryan during batting practice once last season, and the ball comes off his bat with a different sound than the rest of the players (except Prince Fielder). His ground balls are a little faster. His fly balls travel a little longer. It’s a treat to watch him swing the bat, and he’s only going to be 24.

Ryan brings and element of speed and athleticism to the Brewers lineup. His switch to left field should be eased to some extent by those gifts. Ryan even stole 15 bases last season. That does not seem like much, but when batting ahead of Prince Fielder, he does not get the chance to run very often. He may have a very unorthodox style of running, but he picks ’em up and puts ’em down with the best of them. With Corey Hart, Mike Cameron, and Ryan Braun in the outfield, the Brewers may have one of the fastest outfields in the major leagues.

His confidence. All throughout last year, Ryan Braun mentioned that he was not yet comfortable in the big leagues. He expects and thinks he can do much better this year now that he’s settled in his house in Milwaukee and is more comfortable in the clubhouse setting. Even after hitting 20 home runs faster than anyone in Brewers history, Ryan’s reaction was that he’s still trying to get comfortable in the big leagues. What kind of numbers will he put up when he gets comfortable?! His confidence is also shown when he hits his home runs, sometimes he has a swagger about him that is Manny Ramirez-like. Sometimes he catches himself watching the home run and showing up the pitcher a bit, but I don’t mind that too much. It just shows me that he knows he got it.

Weaknesses:

Braun’s defensive struggles have been well-documented throughout the off-season. His .895 fielding percentage was by far the worst for a major league third baseman last season. This prompted the Mike Cameron signing and Braun’s move to left field. No one is pretending that Braun will not struggle to start in the outfield, but the idea is to temper the defensive miscues a bit and to let Bill Hall handle the hot corner to improve the defense as a whole. I think that Ryan will do better than most people give him credit for though. It will be fun to see him mature out there.

One weakness in Ryan’s game that was much overlooked last season was his relatively low OBP. With a .324 batting average and the power threat that he is, you would think that he would have a better on-base percentage than the .370 he posted. This stems from his inability to draw walks, as he only got 29 free passes in the whole season. I do think that this number is a bit misleading, however. Batting ahead of Prince Fielder, pitchers are going to do anything within their power not to walk Ryan. Even on a 3-2, pitchers are more apt to throwing a fastball right down the middle and making Braun beat them, than to throw a breaking pitch and put Ryan on base. The thing is, Ryan almost always beat the pitcher in that battle. Still, to be a bigger force in the lineup, Ryan Braun needs to draw more walks and get on base more often.

Projections:

ZiPS – .294/.332/.554
The Hardball Times – .289/.338/.549

These projections seem to signify the same things.  Pitchers will have an entire off-season to watch tape and dissect Ryan’s weaknesses at the plate, so his batting average should go down correspondingly.  They also recognize his low walk-rate and relative inability to get on base when not getting a hit.  It does not look as if his slugging will take too much of a hit this season, though.

I think that it will be very difficult for Ryan Braun to match what he did last season, so a sophomore-slump of sorts is inevitable.  That is not to say that he will struggle, but people may view it as such because he’s not putting up the same insane numbers that he did last season.  His batting average will naturally go down this season, but I think that you can expect his on-base percentage to go up.  Ned Yost seems likely to bat Braun behind Prince Fielder this season to utilize his speed more and to let Prince see more good pitches, so Braun should draw more walks because of this.  You can also expect Ryan to get the green-light more on the base paths because he won’t be in front of Prince, so his stolen base numbers should climb a bit too.  All in all, Ryan’s a beast, and he’ll play as such.

Projected Offensive Line: .290/.347/.553
Projected Season Rating (out of 10): 9.0

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8 08 2008
Right Field Bleachers » Blog Archive » In the News

[…] BrewersNation profiles Braun and […]

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