What we saw in 2016 was as close to the old Ryan Braun as we've seen since his 2013 PED suspension, and more relevantly, since the injuries that limited him to just 61 games in 2014. Braun finished with a .305 average and 30 home runs, the first time he reached either of those marks since 2012. While he lacks the explosive pull power that made him great in his young age, he has developed into one of the best opposite field hitters in baseball. According to FanGraphs, Braun owned a .446 batting average and .732 slugging percentage to right field, both ranking in the top 10 in the major leagues.
Braun is in the lineup for the Brewers' split-squad Cactus League game Friday, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Milwaukee has conserved the veteran outfielder's workload this spring in order to have him fresh for the regular season. Assuming the 33-year-old goes through spring training without any issues, prospective Braun owners could even feel justified taking him somewhere a bit ahead of his current NFBC ADP in the high 40s.
Braun will play in his first spring game Friday, starting in left field and probably taking two at-bats during a split-squad contest, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports. The vet has been brought along slowly to preserve him for Opening Day. Braun bounced back with authority in 2016 and remains a worthy pick in the first four rounds of most mixed fantasy drafts.
Braun will make his first Cactus League appearance either Friday or Saturday, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The elder statesman in the Brewers outfield typically sits out of the first couple weeks of spring games as a normal part of his spring routine, but it will be good to see him back in action nonetheless. Once the regular season starts, Braun will look to build off of a bounce-back 2016 campaign where he posted a .903 OPS thanks to 30 home runs and 23 doubles.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Braun probably will not play during the first week of spring games, as part of his usual spring preparationTom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. This is merely a normal step in the 33-year-old's typical camp progression. He's expected to play games sometime in early March, so unless something else arises, there's nothing to worry about with his health. He's coming off a 2016 revival (.305/.365/.538 with 30 home runs, 91 RBI, 80 runs and 16 stolen bases) and, despite ongoing concerns about health and age, continues to deserve a pick sometime in the third or fourth round in most fantasy drafts.
Braun isn't in the lineup for Sunday's season finale against the Rockies. It seems kind of odd that Braun would sit out the season finale but no injury label has surfaced to this point. Jake Elmore will replace him in left field Sunday, batting eighth for the Brewers.