by Kevin Kimmes
From the first official game of Spring Training, one thing has been apparent: where Ryan Braun goes, the boo-birds follow. For those of us that have followed the ups and downs of the “Braun Saga” we know why. An MVP season, accusations of cheating, “redemption” when those accusations didn’t stick, an MLB “witch hunt”, and a crushing finale in which we found out that all of our darkest suspicions where true. These have been the highlights and lowlights of Braun’s recent career.
With that said, the 2014 season is a new start for Braun. His suspension now completed, he finds himself in new territory: right field. Filling the gap left by the recently departed Corey Hart, Braun now tends the field out where “the dandelions grow“. Sometimes a change of scenery such as this requires a period of adjustment, but this time, that just doesn’t appear to be the case.
In 12 Spring Training appearances, Braun has 0 errors as a right fielder. As if this wasn’t reassuring enough, the bat appears to be back in a big way too. Sporting a robust .440/.548/.800 in Cactus League play, Braun also has a pair of longballs to his credit. The first of these, recorded in his first at bat of his first Spring Training game, had a cinematic quality to it.
Walking to the plate to a chorus of boos, Braun tomahawked an 0-1 offering from A’s starter Tommy Malone over the left field fence stunning the jeering crowd into silence and sending out a resounding roar from the Brewers’ faithful. Fans saw this as a return to form for the beleaguered slugger while detractors just drew more suspicion from the performance.
Believe what you may, Braun appears to be putting the whole thing in the rear view mirror and moving on, and that’s good news for Milwaukee as they look to take a run at another year of stout competition in the NL Central. Sporting a franchise high payroll (the first ever to exceed $100 million), the Brewers appear to be “all in” this season. Nowhere may this be more apparent than in Braun’s move to right field.
The move allows Kris Davis, who filled in out in left during Braun’s suspension and collected 11 homers for Milwaukee, to continue on in an everyday role for the Brewers. That kind of power will be needed to help balance out the loss of Corey Hart’s bat and to possibly stoke the fires of an explosive offense like the one Milwaukee fielded in 2011 when they led the NL in homeruns.
Look for Braun to have a bounce back season as he looks to move on from his recent turmoils.
253 PA, 30 R, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 4 SB, 10.7 BB%, 22.1 K%, .298/.372/.498, 135 wRC+
Steamer: 576 PA, 79 R, 26 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 9.5 BB%, 19.1 K%, .291/.363/.514, 139 wRC+
ZiPs: 664 PA, 99 R, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 22 SB, 8.9 BB%, 17.6 K%, .300/.367/.540, 148 wRC+
Signed thru 2020, 8 yrs/$45M (08-15), 5 yrs/$105M (16-20) & 21 mutual option