Branyan signing shouldn't be dismissed

Updated: February 26, 2010, 3:57 PM ET
By Eric Karabell
We interrupt this Matt LaPorta sleeper lovefest to remind people that the Cleveland Indians recently signed Russell Branyan to a one-year contract, and they reportedly fully intend to play the lefty-swinging strikeout machine regularly and bat him in the middle of their lineup. Since it's late February and Branyan's name doesn't seem to carry much weight in fantasy baseball circles, I'm guessing most people either ignored this transaction or glossed over it as having little bearing on either the Tribe or fantasy. I mean, it's Russell Branyan, right?

Well, now would be a good time to remind everyone that 30 players hit 30 or more home runs in the majors last season, and Branyan was one of them with 31. Granted, the big fella is arguably the least-heralded of the bunch, but none of the other 29 players achieved the mark in fewer at-bats than Branyan, and that includes Alex Rodriguez. No question Branyan has power. In fact, he always has had power. However, even last season when Branyan was putting on his power show for the Seattle Mariners, I often found him unowned in roughly half of ESPN's standard leagues, as people were scared of his downside. This guy was awesome in the season's first half, hitting .280 with 22 home runs in 79 games. I wouldn't call it an outrage that he didn't make the American League All-Star team, but he certainly made a strong case for it.