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Fantasy Baseball 2013: Is Ryan Braun Worth the Risk?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Doesn’t this feel like déjà vu? I swear we’ve gone down this road before. Oh yes, now I remember, we did–literally this exact time last year. Oh Ryan Braun, you just can’t seem to stay out of the news.

The latest is that the Milwaukee Brewers slugger consulted with steroids embodied Anthony Bosch. This is clearly a stigma that Braun did not need, but what exactly does it mean for fantasy baseball owners in 2013?

With all of the hoopla surrounding Braun, we are left with one simple question: is he still worth a first round pick? While I am not sure exactly what the repercussions will be from MLB, it’s starting to feel like this is an issue that will eventually catch up with him. It’s just a matter of whether the production potential is worth the risk.

Let’s not beat around the bush, Braun is probably the safest player in all of fantasy. Over the past six years, he has posted five seasons of 30 homers or more and has never failed to drive in less than 97 runs. Combine that with a career .315 average and back-to-back 30 steal seasons. We all know he’s good, but is it still worth the risk?

The root of the matter is whether or not he gets suspended and how badly that would hurt his overall numbers. The MLB has suspended many players over the years for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, including Braun. The difference between this, and those cases, is that this is not definitive. This time, he didn’t fail a test, but he does has some circumstantial evidence that paints him in a negative light. I truly don’t think he is going to get suspended.

However, even if he is suspended, it really isn’t the end of the world. Say he sits out 50 games. Adjusting his 2012 campaign for the missed time, his stat-line would still be .315, 29 homers, 77 RBI, 21 stolen bases. That’s a baseline. He has been getting better every year and would be entering the middle of the season fresh, while many players are starting to fall off.

It’s hard to say that he is not a gamble worth taking. If he gets suspended, his numbers may not be elite, but they could still very solid. If he is not suspended, we could be looking at either the first or second best player in all of fantasy. It’s hard to say that he’s not worth the risk.

I think that I would still prefer to take Mike Trout with my first overall pick, but outside of him, it’s Ryan Braun for me and it’s not even close.