Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sleeper Alert: Russell Branyan

posted by Jon Williams

Before the 2008 season outfielder Ryan Ludwick was known to be a powerful hitter that had probably missed whatever chance he had to be a major league regular. Then the St. Louis Cardinals actually needed him enough to give him an extended series of at-bats. He carried the Cardinals offense the entire season. This year no one questions that Ludwick belongs in the Major Leagues and the Cardinals need to figure out how to work top prospect into the mix with Ludwick, Colby Rasmus, Rick Ankiel, Brian Barton, Chris Duncan, Joe Mather, and Skip Schumaker.

Russell Branyan is a similar player. Great power but too high a strikeout rate to win a regular job at this point in his career. In 2008, Branyan hit 12 homers in 132 at-bats. And he has essentially always performed that way. Last month, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a one-year guaranteed contract approaching a million bucks a year to be their primary first baseman. This was an excellent move. Branyan has a low contact rate but has a career fly ball rate over 50 percent and approaching 60 percent the last few seasons. This translates into homeruns because of his excellent career HR/FB of 21.9 percent. Do the math – (500 at-bats)*(70 percent contact rate)*(50 percent fly ball rate)*(22 percent HR/FB) = 38 homeruns. Branyan's best-case batting average is probably no better than .270 and reality suggests an average closer to .250, but if Ludwick can hit .290, anything can happen.

Eventually, Bryan LaHair will eventually present Branyan with a challenge for the position but almost no one expects that to happen in 2009. Chris Shelton has also been brought in as a platoon partner for Branyan. This is a good development. Less at at-bats against lefties against whom Branyan has hit .204 during his career gives Branyan better odds at a fantasy tolerable batting average.

He should be owned in every AL-only and the deeper ,mixed leagues.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Dave Zahniser said...

John,
Excellent tip. I need a firstbaseman in my keeper league and I bet I can get Branyan very cheaply.
Big Z

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 4:10:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Thanks again for reading, Dave. First base is looking pretty thin in my AL-only keeper league too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 4:17:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Marc Edelman said...

John:

Interesting post. Just out of curiosity, does the fact that the Mariners play at Safeco affect your analysis at all. I think everything you say is right. However, that is a tough porch to clear. While won't Branyon become the next Richie Sexton (a player whose numbers got killed after moving from Milwaukee to Seattle).

I'm not saying you are wrong. I would just like to hear a little more before I become as bullish as you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 5:14:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

No problem Marc. The difference is really simple and shown with just two stats: 34.8 FB% and 17.4% HR/FB compared to Branyan's approaching 60% FB and 22% HR/FB. Hitting the ball on the ground when you are as slow as Sexson is the kiss of death.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 5:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Safeco will steal a few homers but Branyan should still be very productive if the Mariners continue to give him at-bats.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 5:26:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Marc Edelman said...

Jon:

Thanks for the analysis. I am not a buyer into HR/FB here because the ballpark change should reduce that; however, the first start (FB/FB+GB) is very persuasive. Thanks.

I definitely plan to visit this site periodically. Feel free to check out our baseball coverage as well at www.sportsjudge.com

We are looking for intelligent conversation. So, none of our writers would be at all offended if you called some of our ideas into doubt.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 6:55:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Thanks Marc, we don't have to agree all the time to provide each other with ideas. I checked out SportsJudge.com recently and I'd be thrilled if we had a prolonged conversation between sites.

Shoot me an e-mail at JonPWilliams at Gmail dot com, I'd love to chat about a link exchange and some things my other site, RotoExperts.com has happening.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 7:05:00 PM EST  

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