Sep 28, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23) waits in the on deck circle in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports The Cleveland Indians won 5-1.

Michael Brantley: 2014 Cleveland Indians Player Profile


Michael Brantley: Young, Developing Power Hitter

What is best in life?

We all know the real, right answer to that great question, but when it comes to baseball, a player like Michael Brantley could be up there. He’s definitely not the best player around, in fact he might be the most average player in the Major Leagues, but guys like him are wonderful to have on your team. Mike does a lot of things pretty well, but nothing great. He’s a dead average hitter in league terms, hits just barely double digit homers, has an acceptable glove and decent speed. A team of them, plus, say, a Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera could contend for a title.

Plus, he’s just so damn smooth. Even if Doctor Smooth is a lazy, lame nickname. He’s like watching oil being poured on butter while Ryan Gosling narrates it. Brantley would steal your girl if he wasn’t so nice about things. Though I’ve never seen him really smile…

Milk is for babies. When you get older, you drink beer.

Brantley has grown up before our eyes the past few years. It’s hard to believe the throw in on the CC Sabathia deal is the best we’ve seen out of the Cy Young Tradeaway Sweepstakes, but all the same he has flourished into a fine major league player. We get to enjoy him some more with a new deal in place, but we’ll get to that. Like I said before, he brings a league average existence to the table, as evidenced by such:

 

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

SB

BB%

K%

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

RISP OPS

Brantley

611

.084

.332

.396

10

17

6.5

11

.320

104

1.7

.870

Feb 24, 2014; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley took part in the annual photo day at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sport

Feb 24, 2014; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley took part in the annual photo day at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sport

Everything about him screams middle of the road, but the secret cool thing about Brantley is his, shall we say, money-ness in big moments. The guy answers the bell time and again it seems. His ability to make contact, best on the team at 91.1% of swings last year, surely has something to do with it but whatever it is, he’s more valuable than the raw numbers suggest. As long as the guys in front of him are getting on  base, I guess. Even though being a clutch player doesn’t really exist, I feel like his ablity to put wood on ball gives him an advantage in that situation over, say, Carlos Santana. You could say he’s lucky, and he probably is, but maybe he makes his own luck.

I’ll live to see you eat that contract! But I hope you have enough room for my fist, because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your goddamn spine!

So the hope here is that Brantley isn’t a vindictive villain that’s been playing the long con, banking on his father’s good name and being the quiet, nice type to drag an extension out of the team only to utterly crater his production on purpose. Far-fetched, I know, but that’s the life I lead and thoughts I think as a paranoid recluse. I can’t be the only one. In signing him for four years and $25 million though, it might be Michael and not the Indians who get the short end of the stick here though. That works out, according to the various maths of calculating a win above replacement (6.5-7 million per, roughly), of about four and change wins. Considering he’s been worth almost two per year the last few, and is entering his prime Grown Man Strength years, it’s likely to play better for the Indians. Here’s how he’s projected to be this upcoming season:

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

SB

BB%

K%

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

538

.272

.332

.385

10

12

7.8

11.4

.315

101

1.4

Oliver

600

.283

.335

.400

10

15

7.0

11.0

.323

106

2.1

ZiPS

619

.278

.331

.391

9

15

7.3

11.6

.317

102

1.7

Merritt

610

.289

.340

.425

15

15

7.6

11.1

.330

108

2.9

As ever, Steamer predictions are a bit pessimistic, while my own, based on fandom and watching the guy a lot, are somewhat optimistic. I can’t speak to the others, but my main expectation is a spike in power – namely home runs. Brantley has always been a line drive type of hitter, but as one ages and grows, more of those balls end up over the fence.

In looking at his spray chart, he’s a dead pull hitter, and last year a number of balls ended up just feet from the wall if not bouncing off. While there may be other arguments against it, to me it says that a guy as hard working as Brantley will be able to sneak a few over the wall, and he’s shown an ability to really get around on one now and then. Considering his learning of pitchers and how they treated him in what amounted to his third full season, he should know better what to expect, which should lead to better production.

This last part is pure speculation drawn from Spring Training articles and somewhat fluffy interviews, but seeing as Brantley seems like the type of guy who won’t rest on his laurels now that he’s gotten paid, I fully expect a career year from him. My hopes for him are grander than what I wrote above, but I’m the guy who thinks Corey Kluber could contend for a Cy Young this season, so take that how you want. Michael Brantley isn’t going to grab a billion headlines, but he’s going to win some games, be out there every day as a positive force for the team. Really, it could be that the less we hear from him the better, because that means he’s just grinding along at his own steady, quiet pace.

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