Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 11/14/14
Mlb-indians-tigers-apr

I have been admittedly bullish on Michael Brantley since the Indians acquired him from the Brewers in 2008.  I like guys who don’t make outs, and throughout his minor league career, Brantley’s on base percentage was a remarkable .388.  I love batters who walk more than they strike out, and Brantley certainly did that in the minors (292 BBs and 218 Ks).  I adore players who are successful base stealers more than 75% of the time: Brantley stole 162 bases in 201 minor league attempts—an 81% success rate.

Michael Brantley was my kind of player.  In the minor leagues.

The problem, of course, is that his minor league success has not translated remotely to the Big Leagues.  His MLB OBP is a measley .317.  He’s struck out more than twice as often as he’s walked.  Entering this season, Brantley had been successful on only 71% of his stolen base attempts (below the break-even point from a run expectancy perspective), and even more troubling, he’d attempted only 38 steals total.

In other words, all the tantalizing talent we saw in the MiLB numbers just didn’t seem to be translating.  Much like the 1B he’ll forever be linked with, it was starting to appear that Brantley had 4-A skillz.  He’d always rake at AAA, but never adjust to the superior pitching the Bigs.1

This is the part of the conversation where I remind you that Michael Brantley is still only 25 years old—and a young 25 at that.  His birthday was only three weeks ago.  Brantley is younger than Carlos Santana and Nick Hagadone and Jason Kipnis and Josh Tomlin and Jason Donald and Matt LaPorta and every other member of the roster not named Lonnie or Jeanmar.

My point is not that we should forgive him his bout of suck due to his youth, but rather that we might have reason to believe that he is still making significant adjustments to his game that could reasonably result in a different player than the one we’ve seen for the past several years.

So, with our small sample size radar pinging loudly in our ears, let’s take a look at how Brantley’s performed since May 10th, an admittedly arbitrary endpoint2 :

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

SB%

93

0.348

0.376

0.483

7

100%

Now, 93 plate appearances isn’t a lot, but it’s not nothing either; most everyday players end the season with about 600-700 plate appearances over the course of a season.  And while Paul Cousineau rightly points out that Brantley’s BABiP during this span is an abnormally high .383, we can also go ahead and acknowledge that his slugging percentage would suggest not “lucky groundballs with eyes” but “gap shot doubles”.  That’s a particularly good sign, as gap power is typically a “skill” whereas

Let me be clear: the Michael Brantley we’ve seen over the last month is definitively NOT what we’d predict Brantley to be in the future.  But this iteration does give you some hope of the OBP and base running skill he demonstrated in the minors.  It does remind you that players can continue to develop in their mid-20s—most of them, in fact, do.  It does make you feel a little bit better about a spot in the lineup that we were ready to write off the minute we heard about Grady’s back surgery.

And sure, it reminds me how much fun it is to be bullish on players.  Too often I write in this space about mirages and flukes—about what can’t be sustained, and the cracks looming beneath the surface.  It’s refreshing to remember that sometimes the opposite can be true.  Sometimes, players break molds and develop new skills.  Like real, live human beings, sometimes they change—and sometimes, for the better.  Here’s hoping on you, Michael.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

___________________________________

  1. It’s moments like these when we pause to recognize how rare players like Jason Kipnis really are.  Players who hit in the Big Leagues from day one, without substantial adjustment time just don’t come along all that often.
  2. I should point out here that these numbers do not include his HR last night. WooHOOO!
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Aaron Rodgers buys TVs for Packers teammates

Harbaugh smiled when asked about Michigan's bday tweet

Jackie Robinson West Little League accused of cheating

Police: Fire that burned down McClain's home 'suspicious'

Furniture store will refund purchases if OSU wins title

What each NFC team in the hunt should ask for from Santa

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Is SI ashamed to mention Jameis Winston on its cover?

Kobe Bryant disappointed Lakers didn't get Rajon Rondo

Niners OT Anthony Davis takes shot at offensive coordinator

Report: Josh Smith expected to sign with Rockets

Cullen Jenkins unhappy over his roughing the passer fine

Bochy: Peavy trade was best in-season move of 2014

Peyton Manning plans to be back with Broncos next year

WATCH: Blazers announcer botches Damian Lillard call

WATCH: P.K. Subban disguises himself, surprises kids for Xmas

Baseball cards: a fan's love for the ultimate stocking stuffer

Packers game is a career defining moment for Stafford

A look inside Jason Grilli's contract with the Braves

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

WATCH: Bahamas Bowl ends on insane Hail Mary play

Mike Yeo slams Wild for not having 'winner's attitude'

Michigan St. QB, Ohio State TE have awkward Twitter exchange

Will FIFA ever care to change?

Top storyline for each NFL Week 17 game

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

WATCH: Announcer botches call

Police: McClain fire 'suspicious'

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

Bahamas Bowl ends on crazy Hail Mary

49ers OT Davis takes shot at coordinator

Will FIFA ever care to change?

Top storyline for each Week 17 game

40 great Christmas-related sports names

Nick Mangold and dealing with feelings as a sports fan

Ibaka, Aldridge ejected for scuffle

Baseball cards: a fan's love for the ultimate stocking stuffer

Nick Young on Kobe-less win: He needs to pass

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.