Now that the 2013 season is complete, it’s time to take a look back at the team and how each player performed on the field. After focusing on the infield in the first part of our recaps, today we shift our attention to the outfield with Indians left fielder, Michael Brantley.
Michael Brantley 2013 Projection:
After spending all of 2012 in center field, Brantley was slated to take back control of left field following the signing of Michael Bourn. This was seen as a positive move for the Indians defensively. While Brantley played admirably in center for most of 2012, his value increased substantially with the move back over to left field. No longer responsible for covering the vast expanses of center field, Brantley could focus more on his offensive skills while playing a less physically demanding position at an above average level.
Speaking of offense, 2013 was expected to be a breakout season for Brantley. He showed flashes of what could be throughout 2012 on his way to posting a .288/.348/.402 slash line. His ability to make contact and put the ball in play on a consistent basis made him one of the most difficult outs in the entire league, he struck out only 56 time the entire season. That is almost unheard of during an era where individual strikeout totals have reached the 200 mark for some players.
However, the one aspect of Brantley’s game that failed to present itself in 2012 was his power. Despite playing in his third full big league season and entering into his prime power years, Brantley was only able to blast 6 home runs in all of 2012, one less than he hit in 2011. Many people felt that by moving back to left field, Brantley would have the opportunity to develop a power bat to go along with his above average speed, defense, and ability to make contact. If he could do that, he could become a truly special player.
So What Happened?:
Michael Brantley ended up putting together another solid season for the Indians in 2013. He once again showed patience at the plate and his trademark ability to hit for contact. The end result, a .284/.332/.396 slash line to go along with career highs in runs scored (66), home runs (10), and RBI (73).
In fact, Brantley was so good in 2013 that it has led many to declare him the MVP of the 2013 Indians. That’s saying something considering he was by no means considered the Indians best player heading into the season. However, his overall consistency throughout the season combined with his timely hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position was too much to overlook. He hit a mind-boggling .364/.432/.500 with 29 RBI in those situations. In fact, Brantley excelled with two outs regardless of the situation by hitting .305/.359/.424.
The only real gripe with Brantley’s production was the overall lack of power he displayed. While he did finally hit the double-digit mark in home runs with 10, it was by no means what many fans had been hoping for. Perhaps it will take another year for Brantley to finally develop legitimate power, or maybe this is just what Michael Brantley is at this point – a solid hitter who makes above average contact and doesn’t strikeout at the expense of any power potential he may have.
Where Do We Go From Here?:
The future looks bright for Michael Brantley. While he may not do any one thing spectacular, he does everything well. The parts might not be all that great, but the some of those parts results in a solid major league player that can be relied upon on a daily basis. That’s saying a lot, especially in left field, a position the Indians have struggled with for years to find a competent every day solution.
The only question that remains is will Michael Brantley ever make the leap from good to great. At this point it appears that the answer to that question is no. He is what he is after three full seasons and parts of two others at the big league level. But you never know. Brantley is still only 26 years old and won’t be 27 until May 15. Most big league players don’t enter their physical peaks until about the age of 27 so there is still an outside chance that Brantley can take that next step as a player.
The question is, will Brantley be a member of the Cleveland Indians on Opening Day 2014? While it seems unlikely right now that the Indians would consider trading away Brantley, there is no doubt that he could be a nice complimentary piece in any trade designed to bring back an ace pitcher or big-time bat in return. While no rumors have surfaced yet and probably won’t until after the World Series, don’t be surprised to here that the Indians are at least entertaining trade packages involving Brantley in some way.
On July 7 against the Tigers, Michael Brantley had himself a day at the plate. He went 3-4 with a double, a pair of home runs and 5 RBI. His second home run, a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth, gave the Indians the lead for good.