He struggled for most of 2010. He struggled with time split on the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners, only hitting .215 during his time in Seattle. So when 2011 came rolling around there would be no guarantees for Russell Branyan as he was added to the Arizona Diamondbacks camp as a non-roster invitee. His hard work this spring has paid off and now he has made the team.
Branyan has hit .420 in spring, leading the Dbacks with 36 total bases, 4 home runs and 17 RBI. Not bad for a non roster invitee. Right from the get go though it appeared Branyan would compete for a spot at first base, a spot that was virtually assured to Juan Miranda before spring started. The Dbacks said they had wanted to make Miranda their everyday starter. Miranda hasn't exactly struggled either at .306, but Branyan has been that much better.
I would expect both players to see good time at first base, but I expect Branyan to be the opening day starter in Colorado. Branyan gives the Dbacks the power hitter that was missing from the lineup after the trade of Mark Reynolds and loss of Adam Laroche to free agency. With Branyan in the lineup, that give the Dbacks four legitimate home run threats with Branyan, Kelly Johnson, Justin Upton, and Chris Young.
Now we just have to see if this carries over into the regular season. Branyan hit 31 homers in 2009 and 25 total last season, despite the poor batting average. Then again, Reynolds hit 32 homers while hitting .198 last season, so we will need need more than power from Branyan. We will need the average to maintain itself just a little higher than the ridiculous Reynolds line if we want to see any of it translate into Dbacks victories in 2011.