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2014 Fantasy Baseball Top Five: The Milwaukee Brewers

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Fantasy Baseball 2014: The Top Five Milwaukee Brewers

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Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun grabbed headlines a couple years ago with a steadfast denial that he used performance-enhancing drugs after news of a positive test surfaced, but he ultimately served a 65-game suspension last season and will attempt to put the whole episode behind him this year.

Fantasy baseball owners that used an early pick on Braun last year were definitely left disappointed with his production (.298, nine home runs, 38 RBI and four stolen bases in 61 games) when he was active, and finding a solid replacement for him over the final two months of the season as he served his suspension likely proved difficult.

The noteworthy nature of Braun’s situation may have led to his teammates being overlooked by fantasy owners last year, but those that had another Brewer on their roster found solid contributors at positions that traditionally aren’t very deep (catcher Jonathan Lucroy, shortstop Jean Segura), an outfielder that topped 20 home runs and had 40 stolen bases (Carlos Gomez), young players that may have been cheap sources of home run power in deeper leagues (outfielder Khris Davis and first baseman Juan Francisco) and a closer that emerged as a viable option (Jim Henderson-28 saves).

A wide range of opinions will be offered on Braun in fantasy circles this year, and he is still someone who will move the needle one way or the other on draft day given his history of top-notch across the board production. With that in mind, here are my top five fantasy options on the Milwaukee Brewers’ roster for 2014.

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5. SP Marco Estrada

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A fly ball pitcher (44 percent fly ball rate last season) in a hitter-friendly home park does not scream “fantasy sleeper”, and a hamstring injury sidelined Estrada for two months last season as well. But he strikes out a fair amount of batters (8.3 K/9 rate in 2013), walks few (2.0 BB/9 last season) and finished 2013 strongly with a 2.15 ERA over the final nine starts (58.2 innings).

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4. OF Khris Davis

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Davis took advantage of Braun being suspended and hit 11 home runs in 136 at-bats for the Brewers last season. A full-time role as the team’s left fielder this year puts 25 home runs within reach and makes Davis a solid target for cheap power late in drafts.

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3. OF Carlos Gomez

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An inflated BABIP (.344) led to last season’s improved batting average (.284), and I would not bet on a repeat, but otherwise a projection of 20-25 home runs, 65-70 RBI, 30-40 stolen bases and 80-85 runs scored is enough to keep Gomez in the top tier of fantasy outfielders.

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2. OF Ryan Braun

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Braun is an interesting case as he returns from his suspension , and it can be assumed he’ll never hit 41 home runs like he did in 2012 again. But I think his average season from 2008-2011 (.310, 32 home runs, 108 RBI, 104 runs scored and 20 stolen bases) is a reasonable projection for 2014 and most fantasy owners should be happy with that even with some risk attached.

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1. C Jonathan Lucroy

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Lucroy led all catchers in RBI last season with 82, and he was a top producer at the position in batting average (.280), home runs (18), runs scored (59) and stolen bases (nine) as well. His plate approach is improving (10.6 percent walk rate in the second half of 2013) so there’s some room for more upside in 2014. He may also be eligible at first base in some fantasy leagues after playing 14 games there last season.