Braun One of the Best

Ryan Braun was named the Freshman of the Year by Baseball American, but his career at UM took a turn for the worst when he suffered a myriad of injuries as a sophomore.

None was worse than a rib injury that prevented him from reaching anything near his potential during the season that saw him struggle in comparison to the standards he had set for himself as a freshman.

But this year has been a different story. The injuries are gone. He's 100% healthy and once again hammering the cover off the ball and being a nightmare to opposing pitchers.

Against Oral Roberts Thursday Dennis Bigley threw circles around Ryan Braun's teammates, but wanted no part of the slugger from Granada Hills, California.

Bigley walked Braun three times.

And it can all be attested to the fact that Braun is as healthy as he's been since his breakout freshman season.

Along with his great .441 batting average, he has a team leading 10 home runs and 45 RBI through 32 games.

He's got a ridiculous .811 slugging percentage and leads the team also in hits, runs while also leading the team in stolen bases with 15.

"I feel great right now," Braun said. "It's definitely gratifying to be healthy. I feel better, bigger, faster and stronger and just enjoying this season."

Braun has done all of this while playing a new position as he had never played third base his life prior to this season.

He's committed nine errors through the first 32 games, but has begun to grow into the position as he's become more comfortable with the hot corner.

"It's been a very difficult transition for me," Braun said. "I am definitely starting to feel more comfortable. You can never duplicate grounders in practice to game time. The more reps I get the better I am doing."

Currently a prime candidate for this season's Golden Spikes Award for the nation's best player, Braun's numbers are ahead of the numbers he put up as a freshman when he hit .364, had 17 home runs and 76 RBI.

He is also ranked among the all-time greats in UM history having climbed to ninth all-time in home runs with 37. Only if Braun decides to return for his senior year will Braun have a chance to eclipse the all-time record of 62 by Phil Lane, but with 12 more home runs, Braun will hold the third spot overall in ‘Canes history.

With 165 RBI through Saturday night's game, Braun is tied for ninth with Doug Shields and is only nine RBI behind the beloved Jim Burt who graduated last year.

Entering the year, he also had the fourth best slugging percentage all-time.

At the present time, the numbers Braun's put up are superior to those of his competitors according to Baseball America.

When compared to the competition the stat lines are as such:

Braun - .441, 10 home runs, 45 RBI, .811 slugging, 15 stolen bases

Jed Lowrie, Stanford - .318, 8 home runs, 30 RBI, .659 slugging, 1 stolen base

Stephen Head, Ole Miss - .340, 9 home runs, 32 RBI, .691 slugging, 1 stolen base

Alex Gordon, Nebraska - .407, 10 home runs, 27 RBI, .847 slugging, 12 stolen bases

Shane Robinson, Florida State - .492, 2 home runs, 27 RBI, .674 slugging, 27 stolen bases

Ryan Zimmerman, Virginia - .421, 4 home runs, 37 RBI, .664 slugging, 9 stolen bases

Based on that alone, Braun is a shoe in to win the award, but with about 30 games to play this year, anything can happen.

However, it doesn't take away from the enjoyment that Braun has had this season while playing perfectly healthy.

"Being healthy is huge for me," Braun said.

And it shows on the field as Braun looks to lead his ‘Canes to a sixth National Championship.

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