So what are we to make of this entire situation with some significant names potentially getting suspended for 50 games? Well for one thing, it's certainly a bit of a shocker, even with all the news in the past few years about steroids and performance enhancing drugs. On the other hand, it's not really THAT shocking considering that Braun was essentially busted (or nearly busted) last year for PED use. And Alex Rodriguez has of course been linked to steroids in the past. But I'm not really sure that anyone was expecting to see Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson mentioned in these MLB rumors.
One thing's for sure: if this rumor indeed does hold true, it would hold some pretty serious negative clout in the eyes of the media, the fans, Major League Baseball and baseball professionals everywhere. And being that three of the four players named in this rumor are Yankees, the team's image and reputation of baseball greatness would be tainted. Keep in mind, though, that at this point, this is all still just a rumor-- speculation, something heard through the grapevine, a leak from an unnamed source, nothing confirmed, nothing solid, no reason yet to throw anybody under the bus. There's nothing in this report to diminish a player's stats, abilities and reputation. Well at least not yet...
For Granderson to be guilty of performance-enhancing drugs I'd have to believe that it wouldn't be some sort of anabolic steroid, but rather some new-age cream or "clear" serum that assists in rapid recovery from injuries, similar to what Andy Pettitte claims to have used HGH for in the past. If Braun is indeed found guilty then now the question becomes: how real is Ryan Braun? He is without a doubt one of the most talented and dominant hitters in baseball, if not the most behind possibly only Miguel Cabrera. He has been dominating the league in every facet and every fantasy baseball category since his call up to the big leagues. One would have to assume that Braun isn't all fake, as his talent and abilities are through-the-roof regardless. But maybe Braun isn't an elite hitter anymore, and is only hitting 22 HR instead of 32. And out of all the players mentioned here, his reputation may get hit the hardest. After just getting away last year from a 50-game suspension by the skin of his teeth, the fans and media may come back much harder and harsher on baseball's golden boy.
So what are the implications of this for fantasy baseball, and all of those people who have not yet drafted their teams for 2013? That is a very interesting question, especially for somebody with one of the first few picks in the draft, where guys like Ryan Braun and Robinson Cano normally get taken. So how are we to prepare for our upcoming drafts? No worries, RotoBaller is here to help.
The thing is, nobody can sit here and tell you for sure what's going to happen. Nobody knows exactly if these guys used PEDs, or if this is all just some hoax. But at the same time, is anyone really crazy enough to sit here and tell me that they are taking Ryan Braun with their #1 or #2 or #3 overall pick in the draft tomorrow night? I'm not sure if Braun's guilty, and I certainly hope that he isn't, for the sake of all of us baseball lovers, fantasy baseball lovers, and general admirers of great athletes. But I sure as hell am not touching Braun if I have the opportunity in a draft tomorrow night. Not unless I hear some more concrete news on this rumor first. The risk is just too high, and there's no need to take on that kind of a risk when competing for a fantasy championship, especially if it means taking a risk with your first overall pick in the draft! Your first-round pick is somebody who has to without a doubt, without any shred of hesitation, anchor your team and be an absolute monster stud if you want any chance of winning your league. Of course this doesn't mean that you can't win your league if you lose your 1st overall pick for 50 (or 150) games, but it certainly doesn't make things easier. So what happens if you draft Braun in the first round of your draft, and he ends up getting suspended? Well that's a very good question and a difficult one to answer in a vacuum without knowing who else you've drafted. But to make a long story short, you will most likely lose the most important and most productive fantasy producer on your team for a third of the season, which will make it that much harder for you to contend, to make that extra push, to have those extra stats, or to accumulate those extra two HR or SB in order to make a push for the playoffs or a win that championship.
Someone like Granderson does not pose as big of an issue from a fantasy baseball perspective if he is indeed suspended, since we expected him to miss some time due to his injury. He would only end up missing a few extra games, which would only diminish his draft value and overall value for the season by 5% or 10%, or drop him one or two rounds in the draft. Alex Rodriguez is barely even on the fantasy radar this year with all of his injury concerns, so the implications here would be very minimal. From a fantasy perspective, this rumor makes things so difficult because none of us WANT to believe that 50-game suspensions are coming. But the smart thing to do in this type of uncertainty is avoid the risk, and play it safe.
So with all of that, I will leave you with my closing thoughts: if you are drafting over the next few days before any additional concrete news comes out regarding this rumor, do yourself a favor and do not draft Ryan Braun or Robinson Cano with your top picks. In this day and age, we have to take a risk-management approach in order to succeed in the long term, and fantasy baseball is a game of long-term gains. The risk that you are exposing yourself to by taking Braun or Cano is just too large. Your early-round picks should anchor your team for an entire season, and a future suspension would end up coming back to bite you and debilitate your team in a major way and over the long haul. So cross those guys off your list, and come up with a backup plan. A replacement plan for Braun or Cano may not be easy to find, but someone comparable can be drafted in the same or later rounds. Instead of Cano, go for Pedroia a round or two later. Instead of Braun, go for Mike Trout or Matt Kemp or Jose Bautista or Josh Hamilton or Andrew McCutchen or Carlos Gonzalez.
Hopefully none of this holds up and this just ends up becoming a fun article that was written. And let's not forget that this is all just a rumor right now-- just a leak, just a story that hasn't been published on any major news publications or sports networks yet. This is all still unconfirmed. But hope for the best, and proceed with caution on draft day. If the worst outcome arises, and these players are suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, you'll thank yourself for not taking on that huge risk on draft day... and instead sit back, kick your legs up, and smile at your team's success.
Read Reid Contini's instant analysis on this story as it was breaking yesterday... and be sure to check out RotoBaller's complete 2013 OF Rankings, as well as our Digging Deeper into Outfielders piece!