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C’mon, Ryan Braun Shouldn’t Move to First Base (When Third Base Makes More Sense)

(Image: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

As the unsatisfactory 2013 Brewers season winds down, it’s easy for fans to engage in wild speculation about the way forward.  Several factors have contributed to this year’s disappointing results – Ryan Braun’s suspension, injuries to just about everyone, the starting rotation’s early ineffectiveness, a revolving door at the first base position, amateurish base running mistakes, not enough games against the Cubs, etc.

A few fans have suggested one way to solve a couple of those problems: move Braun to first base.  With Khris Davis showing a lot of potential in left field (apparently the only position he can handle), playing Braun at a position that basically everyone else has gotten a crack at doesn’t seem completely ridiculous.  The possibility of moving Braun to first base has come up in three of the last four JSOnline Brewers chats – yesterday, on August 28, and on August 21.

This idea is bolstered in some minds by the fact a remorseful Braun would be in no position to object coming off a 65-game suspension.

It’s a nifty theory, although I suspect even fans making the suggestion are not being entirely serious.  In that spirit, I have a theory of my own.  If it makes any sense at all to play Braun at first base (and let’s pretend for the moment that it does), it’s at least as reasonable to move him back to third base – his “natural” position.

Braun’s 2007 Rookie of the Year season was at third base, despite the fact his defense, shall we say, left a lot to be desired (26 errors, .895 fielding percentage).  Still, there’s no reason to believe an athlete of Braun’s caliber with seven big league seasons under his belt couldn’t make adjustments.  As a clever Wikipedia editor noted on Braun’s page:

“It was suggested that it was possible that Braun would learn to play the position adequately, given that David Wright (who tied for the major league lead in errors by a third baseman in 2005, his second in the league)[195] in 2007 became a ‘passable defender’ (and won the NL Gold Glove at third base).”

Take Ryan Zimmerman (please).  He’s been a liability at third base since 2006, and he’s one of the Nationals’ star players.  Juan Francisco has been legally incompetent to play third base since 2009, and he’s still got a job.  If Braun had to play third again, he could be at least as good as Zimmerman, and maybe even take Francisco under his wing.

As for Aramis Ramirez, why not put him at first base?  That’s the ideal position for an older player who can still produce runs but no longer has much spring in his step.  Then the Brewers 2014 infield is Braun-Segura-Gennett-Ramirez.  Is that really far inferior to the Betancourt-Segura-Weeks-Francisco infield that played in 2013?

Of course, that seems to leave no room for Corey Hart…unless you make him the backup catcher, and convert Martin Maldonado to a starting pitcher.  With Maldonado’s arm strength, he could be a back of the rotation guy.  If putting Braun at first base is an idea worth talking about, the possibilities are endless.