Milwaukee Brewers Report to Camp; Ryan Braun Confident

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Though players had already begun making their way to Maryvale, Arizona for Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training, today was the official report date for position players. The Brewers return a mostly intact team from last season; they’ve added Adam Lind offensively and waived goodbye to Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, and K-Rod (though Rodriguez may still return). To improve on their 82 wins from last season and make a run at the playoffs, the Brewers will need a return to form from their former MVP, Ryan Braun.

Prior to 2013, Braun had consistently been among the best hitters in the league. He started his career with six straight seasons of 25+ home runs, 90+ RBI, and 14+ stolen bases, hitting over .300 five times. Braun lead the league in OPS in 2011, when he captured the MVP award after hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs and stealing 33 bases. His 166 OPS+ and 7.8 WAR were both career bests. Allegations of steroid use dogged Braun after he failed a test following the 2011 season, but he successfully appealed his suspension on a technicality. While many were expecting Braun to fold under the scrutiny and minus the ‘roids (though helater alleged he used them only for recovery from an injury), Ryan posted another career year in 20132. He lead the league with 41 home runs, 108 runs scored and a .987 OPS, stole 30 bases, and posted a 6.9 WAR en route to a second place finish in the MVP voting.

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Things began to fell apart in for Braun in 2013, however. He became embroiled in the Biogenesis scandal, eventually agreeing to serve a 65 game suspension to end the 2013 season. Ryan began to struggle with a nerve issue in his right thumb, affecting his approach at the plate and leading to reduced results. In a shortened season of 253 plate appearances, he posted a .298/.372/.498 line with 9 home runs. The Brewers and Braun hoped that his extended offseason would allow extra time for his thumb to heal, however he followed up with a 2014 that was the worst full season of his career. A .266/.324/.453 slash were career lows in each category, and he managed only 19 home runs. His 7.1% walk rate was his worst since 2008, and his 1.0 WAR was worse even than his 2013 less-than-half-season. After the season concluded, Braun underwent a freezing procedure on the troublesome nerve, and he reported today to camp in full health.

Ryan is apparently very confident in his return to form, saying today:

"“I expect to go out there and be one of the best players in the league…I’ve always felt that as long as I’m healthy, success is inevitable.”"

Braun went on to say that it feels nice to show up to spring training finally feeling healthy, and that he’s optimistic that the thumb procedure in October will prove to be successful. Obviously, if Ryan can get through a full spring training without any setbacks, it will go along way towards easing Brewers’ fans minds. A fully healthy Ryan Braun could be similar to making a big free agent acquisition for Milwaukee. He’s among the best in the game with healthy, and can make a huge difference in the middle of the lineup when he’s right.

Milwaukee will officially kick off spring training with their first full squad workout tomorrow. The Brewers and Braun will get their first taste of game action on March 4th against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Cactus League action kicks off the following day, with the Brewers visiting the Angels in Tempe. Opening Day for the Brewers is on April 6th against the Rockies.

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