Hello friends, It's Friday! Feel free to enjoy this song today. For some reason, 16.9 million people have... ah pop culture.
Anyway onto the meat and potatoes of it all. This week's Redemption song, as promised, is about slugger extraordinaire Russell Branyan. For those of you who can tell the difference between your ass and your elbow (still not sure where that saying comes from or why those are the two body parts chosen for it), I don't need to tell you who Branyan is and why I think he can contribute to your fantasy team this season. For the rest of you, your elbow is the pointy one between your wrist and shoulder. And here's a little bit about "The Muscle".
Taken by the Cleveland Indians in the 7th round of the 1994 amateur draft, Branyan immediately started hitting balls over fences all over the minor leagues. In 1996 and '97, he combined for 79 Home Runs in A and AA ball, and the Indians thought they might have something special in the tall kid from Georgia. Unfortunately, it was not all peaches (see what I did there?) for Branyan. For as many Home Runs as he hit, he was striking out at a record breaking pace as well.
Today, players such as Mark Reynolds, the only man to ever strike out 200 times in a season (3 times), are allowed to play on because of their power. In the early 2000s, Branyan would simply become a journeyman. Have bat, will travel. From 2002 to 2008 he played for 7 different organizations, never really managing to make a name for himself as anything other than a platoon player or pinch hitter, but managing to still club 88 home runs. Not bad for a part-time player, but still not really worthy of much praise. He was certainly not fantasy baseball worthy.
Then, in 2009, the Seattle Mariners, desperate for some offense, gave Branyan a chance to play every day. He rewarded them by mashing 31 home runs in 116 games. Although back issues slowed him down a bit towards the end of the season, the then 33-year old was finally contributing on a pretty elite level (at least in HR). In 2010, he signed with his original team, Cleveland, but was back in Seattle by year's end. He ended up with 25 Home Runs in 109 games this time, and looked forward the off-season. Surely he had done enough over the past two seasons to earn a legitimate free-agent contract.
Unfortunately, suitors for the big lefty were less convinced and he had to settle for a minor league deal and an invite to spring training from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Pretty hard to believe that a man with 56 home runs in 2 seasons will have to, once again, earn his way onto a Major League Roster this season. Can he do it?
The Diamondbacks 1B picture is a little crowded right now, sure. They already had Brandon Allen, a power-hitting prospect who seems to have stalled a bit, but once drew comparisons to fellow first-sacker Ryan Howard. They also already had Juan Miranda. Miranda defected from Cuba in 2006 and signed a 4 year deal with the New York Yankees. Out of minor-league options and blocked by perennial all-star Mark Teixeira, Miranda was pried away from the Yankees for a minor league pitcher and was anointed the favorite to win the job in spring training.
It would seem that Branyan is, once again, blocked. Not so fast. Brandon Allen may have once been compared to Ryan Howard, but his shine has tarnished over the last couple of seasons. Despite solid numbers in AAA the last couple of seasons, he has only earned 149 career major league at bats. Last year, he was supplanted by Adam Laroche. This year, he has apparently already been placed behind Miranda in the depth chart. No one really knows what Brandon Allen would do with 600 major league at bats, and they don't seem in a big hurry to find out. Miranda is in a similar boat. He has only amassed 83 career major league at bats. At age 28, that's an awfully low number. While it isn't really his fault (Teixeira isn't going to sit much, and doesn't get hurt), it still leaves Miranda's career completely unproven. Can the Diamondbacks really rely on him to man first base for an entire season?
I would not be surprised if Branyan made the diamondbacks as a left-handed pinch-hitter and backup first baseman out of spring training. That puts him an injury, or a bad start by a completely unproven player, from seeing some real every-day at bats in Arizona. The way baseballs tend to fly out of Chase Field might Make "The Muscle" a very interesting mid-summer pickup. I don't know about you, but i could use 20 home runs for my fantasy baseball team in the 2nd half of this season.
image courtesy of: http://sports.yahoo.com