Its time for another 2011 Fantasy Baseball Toss Up column and today we look right at the very top of the OF rankings to determine who should be the top dog when it comes to drafts this season. On one side of the ledger you have the Colorado Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez who stormed the league last season in one of the best breakouts we have seen in quite some time. On the other side is the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun who had a his own tremendous bustout in his rookie season a few years back. Both guys can hit for high averages while supplying home runs and stolen bases and both will be selected in the first round of all fantasy baseball drafts this spring. So with that being said, lets see who is the guy who should be selected ahead of the other. As always we look at the five ROTO stats along with intangibles to determine who wins out.
Average: Gonzalez won this battle easily in 2010 as he hit for a robust .336 to Braun’s .304. Prior to that season, Braun has a .320 and a .324 in previous campaign’s while CarGo hit only .284 the year prior to 2010. Both guys have shown they can get up to the elite level in the average department but a closer look at the rate stats show that Gonzalez got very lucky with a high BAPIP and he was much less effective on the road at .289. Braun meanwhile has the better walk rate along with a better K-rate than does Gonzalez. There is some regression coming for Gonzalez this season while Braun should elevate his average back into the .315 range at least due to his wrist feeling better. ADVANTAGE: Ryan Braun
Home Runs: Gonzalez went for 35 taters last season while Braun saw his total drop to 25 due to the aforementioned injured wrist from 2010. Any hitter can tell you that a wrist injury is about the worst kind of ailment for your power game and no doubt Braun lost some homers as a result. This is a guy who hit 34, 37, and 32 the previous three seasons so he will likely get right back to that level in 2011. Gonzalez meanwhile needs to improve on the eight home runs on the road last season as it will be asking a ton to have him repeat the 27 he hit at home last season. This one is very close but once again a slight regression for Gonzalez could drop him just below the more consistent Braun.
Advantage: Ryan Braun
Runs: Braun and Gonzalez will both be hitting in the third or fourth spot in the lineup all season and so both should easily clear the 100 run mark. There is little to distinguish between the two in this category so saying it will be a draw is the right way to go.
RBI: Gonzalez was an RBI machine last season and he hit very well with RISP. Braun meanwhile has to deal with Prince Fielder hitting in front of him so there could be more than a few occasions where the bases will be cleared by the 1B before he gets up. Still both should get over the 100 mark but Gonzalez’ more definite spot in the third place in the order gives him the slight nod.
Advantage: Carlos Gonzalez
Stolen Bases: This is one category that is easy to decide on as Gonzalez has the much better stolen base potential despite Braun being no slouch in that respect. Braun’s ceiling meanwhile is the 20 stolen base mark as opposed to Gonzalez who can easily get 25. There is no contest here.
Stolen Bases: Carlos Gonzalez
Intangibles: The biggest intangible in this debate is the fact that Gonzalez figures to come back to earth some due to that very high .384 BAPIP. The average will surely drop and the fact he doesn’t take walks is even more confirmation with this. Braun should rebound his numbers as the wrist injury last season sapped his power some and so getting back to the 34 HR plateau is very realistic with a .320 average. With Gonzalez’ drop in average and possibly homers, this category belongs to Braun with little debate.
Advantage: Ryan Braun
WINNER: Ryan Braun
All in all I think Braun is the way to go here and its not much of a debate in my mind. A year ago we saw Matt Kemp coming off a season like Gonzalez had last season and we saw how that turned out. Kemp failed to yield first round numbers and he left many owners angry. I am not saying Gonzalez goes that route but with the expected regression and the fact the league likely did their homework on him makes him more of an uncertainty than Braun who has a solid base of stats under him to this point. The Brewers slugger is the pick.