The Big Debate

Ryan Braun

Well Fantasy Baseball draft season is upon us, and at the top there are three potential candidates to go number one overall, and you can’t really go wrong with any of Mike Trout, Ryan Braun or Miguel Cabrera. You have the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, Reigning AL MVP and the Hebrew Hammer. Right now on Yahoo! Trout seems to be the consensus number one overall pick, but is he really the best choice at #1? Lets take a closer look at the three candidates:

Mike Trout

mike-trout-mvp1

2012 Stats: 639 PA, .326/.399/.564, 129 R, 30HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB

At the ripe age of 20 Mike Trout had one of the greatest fantasy seasons of all time. While he spent all of April in AAA Salt Lake, Trout still put up mind blowing numbers. He stole 49 bases at a 91% clip, while also slugging 65 extra base hits. He also showed impressive plate discipline for a rookie, drawing 67 walks while posting an On-Base just a hair below .400. He is the true 5 tool player, and able to help you in all 5 categories of a standard 5X5 league (R, RBI, HR, SB, AVG). Drafting Trout lets you wait until the tail end of the draft to look for steals, while also sacrificing nothing it average or power (looking at you Ben Revere). The biggest concern for fantasy owners going into 2013 is regression, Trout was so good in 2012 that he’s almost guaranteed to slide back a bit in 2013. Let’s take a look at some indicators to see if we can determine how much, if any regression, we can expect from Trout.

The first indicator we’ll look at is Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). Simply put BABIP represents what percentage of balls put in play by the hitter wind up falling in for hits. The League average for BABIP sits around .290-.300. BABIP is useful when one is trying to see which players were lucky, and which players were unlucky. In 2012 Trout posted an astronomical .383 BABIP, and at first glance one would expect this to regress back towards the mean, leading to an average hit in 2013 for Trout, not so fast though. From his 90% steal rate we can already tell that Trout has elite speed, allowing him to beat out infield ground balls. Trout also had a 22% Line Drive Rate (LD%), which is above average, as well as a 4.3% Infield Popup Rate (League Average is ~10%). These stats shows us that Trout is likely to keep posting higher than average BABIPs.

However since Trout’s 2012 season was so astronomically good, its still likely that he will regress in 2013. By no means is this a slight against Trout, Trout at 75% of 2012 is still a top-25 batter. Trout will be hitting in a stacked lineup, in front of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trumbo, so he’s bound to score boatloads of runs. Not only this, but Trout will also have the added bonus of having a full season of play this year, allowing him approximately 7% more plate appearances this year, which can only be a good thing. I’m not sure if I buy Trout as a 30 home run guy going forward, but low to mid 20’s should be fairly easily achievable. Anyone picking Trout at 1 will not be disappointed. Having said that here is Armchair Sports prediction for Trout’s 2013 Line, and our ranking of him:

.302/.385/.501, 103R, 22 HR, 89RBI, 64SB
Rank: #3

Ryan Braun

ryan-braun

2012 Stats: 677 PA, .319/.391./.595, 108 R, 41 HR, 112 RBI, 30 SB

The Hebrew Hammer came into last season under a cloud of doubt. His overturned positive PED test led many to believe that he would slump in 2012 under increased media pressure. That could not have been further from the truth. Braun rewarded fantasy owners with another huge season, clubbing 41 dingers while also contributing to the other 4 categories with elite numbers. He has been the model of consistency since 2009, never appearing in less than 150 games, hitting less than .304  or driving in fewer than 103 runs. This is one clear advantage that Braun (and Miggy as you’ll see later) has on Trout, he has the track record. Going into 2013 owners can probably expect around the same line as 2012, however lets take a look at a couple indicators to see if we can home in on what to expect.

True Average (TAv) is a metric developed by Baseball Prospectus (a must subscribe for serious fantasy owners) which combines all offensive performances into one number. True Average incorporates things like situation hitting and “productive” outs as well as adjusting for ball park. A League average TAv sits right around .260. Braun’s .332 and never once in his 6 year career has it dropped below .291. Braun has been one of the purest hitters since he came into the league. His Home Run to Fly Ball Ratio has also sat right around 18-20%, another model of consistency. Braun, like Trout also has a very low Infield Fly Rate (IFB%) and solid LD%. All in all Braun is a professional hitter and a fantasy owner’s best friend.

Unlike Trout I believe that Braun will post a similar line to last year, however he will miss getting to beat up on the Astros pitching now that they’ve moved to the AL West. Now while he doesn’t have the silverware that Trout or our next candidate has from last year, he is still my pick for #1, due to his rock solid consistency, and his 5 category contributions. There is one caveat with Braun though, and depending on who you listen to it could either be a huge negative, or have no impact. Braun is still embroiled in PED controversies, and according to some there could be a suspension looming. To me I say ignore it, Braun is going to be a beast again this year and I just can’t see a suspension coming down. Here’s our prediction for his line this year:

.322/.380/.599, 107R, 44 HR, 116 RBI, 28 SB
Rank: #1

Miguel Cabrera

116483-650-366

2012 Stats: 697 PA, .330/.393./.606, 109 R, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 4 SB

Now if you want to talk about consistency, look no further than Mr. Cabrera. He’s the reigning AL MVP, and the first Triple Crown Winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. This accomplish paved the way for his MVP victory over Mike Trout (personally I was in the Trout Camp but that’s not all that important here). Cabrera slugged 44 homers last year, while also hitting above .324 for the 4th year in a row. He has hit 30+ in each season since 2007 and has only had 2 OBPs lower than .400 in the last 6 seasons. His value increased in fantasy even more last season as he was moved to 3B to make room for Prince Fielder. He is far and away the #1 third baseman in the league offensively, and fantasy owners can rely upon monster production across 4 of the 5 standard roto categories.

The one area where Miggy lags behind these other two is in speed. Miggy has never stolen more than 9 bases in his career, and the last time he had a triple was 2010. He makes up for this by being arguable the best all around hitter in the league. His average isn’t BABIP driven like Trout’s (.331 BABIP) and the last time he posted a TAv below .301 was in 2004 when he was 21. He has a similar LD% to Trout and his IFB% and HR/FB% are both very similar to Braun’s. Miggy also bats in an improved Detroit lineup this year. Victor Martinez is returning from injury and Tory Hunter is a big offensive upgrade over the likes of Andy Dirks. Add this onto a lineup which already includes Prince Fielder and an improving Austin Jackson and you have the perfect situation for tonnes of runs and RBI.

However for me it comes down to the speed issue, if I’m drafting #1 overall I want a player who is going to contribute in all 5 standard roto categories. However saying that I would not fault someone for taking him overall. Cabrera owners can lock in ~40 HR’s with a .320+ AVG. You offense is set and it allows you to take a late round flier on someone like Adam Eaton or Ben Revere to fill in your steals. Here’s my prediction and ranking for Miggy in 2013:

.328/.402/.592, 104R, 42 HR, 124 RBI, 2 SB
Rank: #2

Verdict:

Well there we have it folks. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with any of these three fantasy studs going into 2013. But I’m putting my money on the Hebrew Hammer and building my team from there out. Best of luck and happy drafting!

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