Ryan Braun is one of the first outfielders to go in nearly every mock draft so far this year. With two solid seasons of production under his belt, Braun has an ADP of nine according to the latest information from Mock Draft Central and he is the second-rated outfielder there behind Grady Sizemore.
One of the nice things about Braun is that he will give you numbers in all five categories. He is a threat to win the home run title, but he can also steal bases and post a nice average, too. Last year, Braun finished tied for fourth in the majors with 37 home runs. The three players who hit more homers – Carlos Delgado, Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard – combined for three steals while Braun had 14.
The big question around Braun is how high you think his average will be. In his rookie season, he batted .324 but his average dropped to .285 last year. Now that is still a fine mark – Delgado’s .271 was the highest mark of the three that hit more homers – but he is a borderline first-round pick if his average remains what it was in 2008.
The Bill James projection sees Braun rebounding for a .310 average this season, which makes him an easy first-round selection. The other three projection systems all show Braun improving on last year’s mark, which certainly is a nice sign.
When Braun hit .324 in 2007, he did it in part due to a .367 BABIP. Last year his mark in that category fell to .308, which led to the 39-point drop in average. All four projection systems show Braun with a BABIP this year in the .320s, which would probably mean some combination of more line drives and fewer infield pop-ups.
Starting with the sixth pick in the draft, it is reasonable to start considering Braun for your pick. But he is just one of about a dozen players you have to review. If you think he should be the sixth player taken, you are banking on the 25-point increase in average that the James projection predicts. That is not out of the question, but it should also be looked at as the high end of his expected performance for 2009.