Braun, Fielder dish on MLB's best
Brewers duo discuss favorite players, club's 2010 outlook
MILWAUKEE -- Without question, Brewers sluggers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are part of the new wave of superstars staking their claim to the future of Major League Baseball. But they know they're far from the only two, and one player above all others has caught the eye of both."Hanley," Fielder said, referring to Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez, "does stupid stuff." That's a compliment, for those who weren't sure. Ramirez just turned 26, but he's already played four full seasons in the big leagues, won a Rookie of the Year Award and two Silver Slugger honors, made a pair of All-Star teams and three times ranked in the top 11 in National League MVP balloting. Here are some more stupid stats: Ramirez had scored more than 100 runs in all four of his full seasons, led all of baseball by scoring 125 times in 2008 and batted .342 in 2009, tops in the NL. "He's just an unbelievable athlete and every time I watch him I feel like he has a chance to do something special," said Braun, who batted .320 last season to finish seventh in the league. "He might just do something I've never seen before in baseball." Said Fielder of Ramirez: "He has some 'swag' to him. He has talent. He just is a good show. I'd pay money to see him." Fielder also named Evan Longoria of the Rays and Ryan Howard of the Phillies. Asked for his favorites after Ramirez, Braun picked a pitcher, Giants' righty and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. "He's totally unorthodox in everything he does," Braun said. "He's undersized, but he's unbelievably good. That's cool." And, of course, Braun and Fielder both named each other. Both were 25 years old at the end of a 2009 season in which they combined for 255 RBIs, most of any tandem in the game. Behind Ramirez, Braun is Fielder's favorite player in baseball. "Brauny might be my No. 2," Fielder said. "I see him every day, so I might be spoiled. There are so many great players in this game, and that's why I think the competition [around the league] is getting so much better. "There's so many young players who are really good. Guys may have only five or six years, but they're 10-year veterans as far as talent." They're starting to show up on the league leaderboards. In the NL, for example, five of the top seven spots in the batting title chase belonged to players 26 or younger (Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval of the Giants, Joey Votto of the Reds, Chris Coghlan of the Marlins and Braun). Seven of the top 10 in on-base, plus slugging percentage (OPS) were 27 or younger (Fielder, Votto, Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, Ramirez, Sandoval, Braun and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies). Fielder belongs in any conversation of the game's great young players, and that's why Braun had to include him when asked to rattle off his favorites. "He's as fun to watch as any player in the game," Braun said. Braun and Fielder are Milwaukee's 3-4 hitters, and where they rank among the game's great tandems is a matter for debate. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard of the Phillies and Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau of the Twins would certainly find their way into that discussion. But if we are talking about great young tandems, Braun and Fielder have a nice case. Braun turned 26 in November and Fielder won't join him until next May. All of the other tandems above have at least one 30 year old except for Morneau (28) and Mauer (26). Fielder talked about his favorite peers as part of a wide-ranging conversation on Sunday at "Brewers On Deck," the team's annual fan convention at Milwaukee's downtown Midwest Airlines Center. Much of the talk, of course, centered around the question of whether the Brewers will be able to keep their young stars together beyond 2011, when Fielder is due to enter free agency. He said he intends to listen to offers but was more interested in talking about the Brewers' on-the-field prospects. After winning the NL Wild Card in 2008, the team slumped to 80 wins in 2009 and missed the postseason. "I feel good," Fielder said. "I don't want to do the whole, 'Trying to make the playoffs,' thing. I mean, you want to go there, obviously. But my thing is just to get better. Worry about our division first. When you're team is crisp and taking care of business, all that other stuff falls into place."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.