Congrats to Ryan Braun: MVN’s NL Rookie of the Year

At the end of the 2007 season, MVN’s baseball writers cast ballots for several awards, including Rookie of the Year. The Brewers’ Ryan Braun won MVN’s NL R.O.Y. by a 32-22 vote margin over Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki.
Thank you for voting Ryan Braun as the National League Rookie of the Year. While generally considered somewhat of a minor award compared to the MVP or Cy Young, the R.O.Y. serves as an affirmation that the Brewers, their GM Doug Melvin, and skipper Ned Yost, are successfully drafting and developing young talent, which has given Brewers’ fans even more hope that a World Championship in the not-to-distant future is a realistic possibility for Milwaukee.
Braun started the ’07 campaign in AAA Nashville, dividing Brewers’ fans as to whether he was already ready to be the starting third baseman for the Brewers, or if he needed just a bit more time in the minors. The debate intensified with the continued unavailability of Corey Koskie, and the platooning of popular, yet unproductive, Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino at the hot corner. While the Brewers got off to their hot start, offensive production was clearly lacking at third, as Counsell and Graffanino combined for 23 for 105 (.219) during the month of April, despite the left-handed Counsell seeing mostly righties, and the right-handed Graffanino seeing the lefties.
As the Brewers took over first in the NL Central, Brewers’ fans were grinning at their good fortune–the Brewers had one bonafide prospect in AAA Nashville ready for the majors–Braun–and had one glaring deficiency in their line-up–third base. Now, for those of you not familiar with the Brewers, any time Milwaukee has a prospect ready to join the parent club, the prospect’s position is often already filled by someone on a tear. To have the stars align where a team needs a third baseman and to have their top prospect *be* a third baseman is rare.
Speculation that Braun would not be called up until after June 1st intensified, as the Brewers would seemingly want to avoid Braun being made a Super Two in 2010. But Doug Melvin wisely decided not to wait that long, and called Braun up on May 25. This move sent a signal to the fan base that the Brewers’ ownership and management had turned the corner, and were now willing to do what they needed to do to win now.
In the 7 games he played in the majors in May, Braun hit only .222, with just 1 home run, which caused some to ponder if Braun was not ready for the Majors. Braun responded–in June, Braun went 39-for-102, for a .382 BA, with 6 homers and 12 doubles. While fellow infielders J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks–both having come up through the Brewers’ farm system–starting to struggle, Braun created a new excitement. Braun’s success no doubt took some of the pressure off of Prince Fielder, and Brewers’ fans began to wonder if Braun was indeed the real thing.
At the All-Star break, Braun was sitting a top the Brewers’ with a .350 BA; astute fans recalled the Brewers’ BA champ from ’06, Prince Fielder, was nowhere near the .300 mark, having finished at .271. Braun countered his .382 BA in June with a .345 BA in July…but averaged a HR per 10.0 AB’s that month, getting a home run in 11 of his 110 AB’s. In July, ESPN posted a graphic that surprised the baseball world–since having been called up, Braun exceeded fellow third baseman and eventual AL MVP Alex Rodriguez’s stats in just about every category. Their post All-Star splits were eeringly similar: ARod hit .312/24/70 after the break, while Braun hit .309/23/65 in that same timeframe.
Braun’s late addition to the 2007 Milwaukee Brewers has helped to foster even greater hope that the Brewers will make the 2008 playoffs–fans realize that having phenoms like Braun and Yovani Gallardo for an entire season have increased the probability that the Brewers will win more games in ’08 than in ’07.

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