Michael Brantley had by far the best year of his big league career in 2012. Having finally established himself as a legitimate everyday player, Brantley turned in career high marks in batting average, on base and slugging percentages, and OPS for a full season. He wasn’t the Indians’ flashiest player and he was far from the most spectacular from a numbers perspective, but Brantley was consistent. Once Manny Acta plugged him into the heart of the order, Brantley carved out a defined role for himself offensively.
Now, in 2013, he faces uncertainty yet again. With the additions of Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn it remains to be seen where exactly Brantley will find himself both in the lineup and in the field in 2013. How exactly does that affect his fantasy value heading into they season? Let’s find out.
Player: Michael Brantley
Eligible Position(s): Outfield
Average Position Rank: #73
Projected Draft Position: Free Agent
Projected Auction Value: $1
Michael Brantley holds little to no fantasy value. This is a blatantly honest fact. As much as it pains me to say it and for as much promise as Brantley showed us in 2012, he just hasn’t put up the numbers over the course of his career to justify selecting him in any league with 10 or fewer teams. There are better options available, and until he proves otherwise Brantley’s fantasy stock will continue to hover somewhere around “I’m desperate” or “I’m hoping for a miracle.”
While it’s true that Brantley had a decent season at the dish in 2012, he still failed to develop any real power—as his 6 home runs can attest. His .288 average, while respectable, is not otherworldly. Those 60 RBI—not even a blip on the fantasy radar screen. To add fuel to the fire, despite his above-average speed, Brantley doesn’t even steal bases well. He swiped only 12 and was caught 9 times.
There’s just no denying the honest truth about the situation: Headed into the 2013 season Michael Brantley should be nowhere near your draft board.
Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t keep an eye on Brantley throughout the season. He had quite a few hot stretches last season where he became a respectable option for a few weeks at a time. The only problem was that he couldn’t stay hot or do anything more than provide an insanely high batting average during those stretches.
There is, however, the chance that this is the year when Brantley finely begins to make the leap from a solid, above average, everyday player to a legitimate must have. First of all, Brantley has shown substantial improvement in each of the past three seasons. That’s a good trend. As he has gained experience at the big league level he has learned how to adjust and become a good hitter. One could assume that this progression should continue this season, especially with a stronger lineup surrounding him.
Second, Brantley is entering his age 26 season. While he has been an everyday player for the Tribe for the better part of three seasons now, he’s still young. Most hitters don’t typically enter their prime until their age 27 or 28 seasons. This stands to reason that as Brantley matures he may very well develop more of a power stroke.
Third, Brantley is an extremely difficult out and puts the ball in play. In 2012 he struck out only 56 times in 609 plate appearances, for a 9.2% rate. Since Brantley almost always puts the ball in play he provides that many more chances for something good to happen. Of course the downside is that Brantley also rarely takes a walk. He walked only 53 times in 2012, a career high for him. So yes, while Brantley puts the ball into play at a remarkable rate, one has to wonder about his pitch selection and the pitches he is putting in play.
Lastly, Brantley is making the move from center field over to left field. While this may not seem significant on the surface, it should play a role in his offensive production. There is significantly less stress associated with playing left field. This means fresher legs, fewer bumps and bruises and subsequently the need for fewer days off. All of that should allow Brantley to focus more on his offense and provide significantly better numbers.
In conclusion, while Michael Brantley is not a must have fantasy option, he is worthy of being put on your team’s watch list. If you find yourself in a bind with injuries or simply need to make a change at the mid way point of the season don’t be afraid to turn to Brantley as a possible option. If you are in a deeper league with fewer options readily available in the later rounds of your draft, feel free to take a chance on Brantley. If he turns the corner you could be handsomely rewarded.