First off, it may seem like a cop-out, but the top of this year’s fantasy baseball class is completely loaded. You have a reigning Triple Crown winner in Miguel Cabrera. A scary good phenom who may have only given us a glimpse of how good he can be in Mike Trout. A small market stud without a real weakness in Andrew McCutchen. The reigning NL MVP and MLB batting champ who puts up corner infield numbers as a catcher in Buster Posey. A genuine 40-40, Triple Crown threat eager to show that he’s recovered from last seasons injuries in Matt Kemp.
Yes, the field is loaded. But while I would love to have any of those guys on my team, my fantasy MVP for 2013 is Ryan Braun. If you’ve been following the site this offseason, I doubt this comes as any big surprise, as I have said that Braun would be my No. 1 pick this year, PED concerns and all.
The reason is simple: I can’t look at Braun and say that I am worried about injuries, and his game just doesn’t have any holes. Look at his worst seasons in the standard fantasy categories.
Runs: 91 (2007), HR: 25 (2010), RBI: 97 (2007), SB: 14 (2010), AVG: .285 (2008).
This isn’t the first time I’ve given those numbers and I don’t want to plagiarize myself here but it’s worth repeating, he wasn’t even called up until late May of 2007.
If I am calling Braun the fantasy MVP, I am also saying that others won’t be. So, let’s take a look at some of the other notable options.
You can predict that other elite players will be better at any given stat. For instance, you’d have to give an to Cabrera edge in each of the three Triple Crown categories, and probably runs, as well. That’s great, but the edge isn’t that great. Braun will be reasonably close to Cabrera in every one of those categories, and has stolen 30 bags in each of the last two seasons. Miggy on the other hand will get you about four. That gap overcomes the others.
Trout is probably the closest to Braun in terms of overall value, but I have two issues with him.
- I have a slight fear that a sophomore slump may be coming. Now, I predict good things from Trout this year, just not as good as in 2012.
- The RBI gap is too great. Even if Trout played the first month of 2012 at the same pace he maintained for the last five, he would have been well short of Braun in the RBI department. It’s not a knock on Trout in any way, he’s just a lead off man and isn’t in a position to drive in as many runs as a heart of the order guy on a good offensive team.
Kemp and McCutchen are similar in that they don’t have any discernible weaknesses, but they each do come with a bit of a risk. Kemp is coming off of an injury plagued season, is still rehabbing a shoulder injury, and as great as his 2011 season was, that year was a bit of an anomaly both in how dominant he was in every major category, including games played. With the exception of that year and the healthy parts of 2012, he’s always dragged in a few areas.
McCutchen is a rising star, but while the Pirates have improved over the last few years, they’re just not that good of a team on offense. I would expect his power numbers to take a hit in comparison to these other players, as more often than not, pitchers can get away with pitching around him. Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez have some pop, but they’re not particularly daunting players and they can be attacked. So while McCutchen is a fantastic talent, he just doesn’t have the help needed to be a fantasy MVP.
Posey is a fantastic talent, especially at the catcher position. But we know what happened to him in 2011. Even in less serious situations, catchers often wear down over the course of the season, as it’s just a brutal position to play. Again, I expect a good year from him, but couldn’t justify calling him a fantasy MVP.
Now, back to Braun’s positives. Actually, first, let’s look at the talent around him.
Milwaukee’s lineup is loaded, and Aramis Ramirez has been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters over the last decade. You may not realize that because apart from a few years with the Cubs, he’s generally been on small market teams, non-contenders, or both. But Ramirez is an absolute machine. So, teams will have to pitch to Braun. Around those two, you have the likes of Carlos Gomez, Norichika Aoki, Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy, and Corey Hart, who should give Braun all of the help he’ll need to keep up with his massive production. As if all of that wasn’t enough, Miller Park is a live yard, so he won’t be hurt by his surroundings at all.
Completely independent of everyone else and home park, Braun is the complete package. There isn’t one area where he doesn’t help make your team significantly better. He is close to the elite players in their dominant categories, and a lot better than them in their weaker ones. So, with him as your centerpiece, you don’t need to worry about bringing in one trick ponies like Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, Ike Davis or Adam Dunn to round things out. He gives you a great head start in every category.
With the exception of his 113-game campaign in 2007 when he debuted on May 25, he’s never failed to play 150 games in a season. When I wrote the aforementioned piece saying that I’d take Braun first in a draft, I had a reader tell me that he thinks Braun is overdue for a 1-2 month DL stint. That may well be true, but unlike a Jacoby Ellsbury or Kevin Youkilis, that’s never been a huge concern of Braun’s. There’s no way to predict that something that’s never been a problem will all of a sudden become one. You could say it and it may even end up being true, but it’s still nothing more than a hunch.
So, not to knock any of the other great players listed here, but it’s tough to think that any will produce numbers like Braun. He has the good surroundings, plenty of help in the lineup, and the all around game that makes him an obvious fantasy MVP prediction.
Here’s our entire countdown:
13 Dollar Players Who’ll Triple Your Money
12 Bargain Bin Outfielders
11 Pitchers You Shouldn’t Touch With a 60’6″ Pole
10 Spot Starters Who’ll Jump to the Next Level
9 Guys to Give You a Complete LIneup
8 Geezers Over 35 Who Still Have Their Giddy Up
6 Hitters with Plate Skills
5 Prospects with 2013 Fantasy Baseball Value
4 Middle Infield Late Rounders
3 Triple Crown Category Winners
2 Comeback Players