Last year, in his fourth major league season, Michael Brantley took big steps toward being a productive everyday outfielder. His walk rate went from the 6.6%-6.9% range, where it had sat for his first three seasons, to 8.7%, and he cut his strikeout rate down from 15.3% to just 9.2%. Overall, his strikeout-to-walk ratio improved dramatically from 0.45 to 0.95. Toss in an increase in line drive rate, and it’s no surprise that Brantley posted a career-best .288 average in 2012.
But while Brantley did see his batting eye improve, he also saw his fly ball rate fall to just 28.8%, which ranked 122nd of the 143 batters to log 500 plate appearances. It’ll be tough to pile on the homers in a pitcher’s park like Progressive Field if you’re not putting the ball in the air.
Note: For those of you that got the email update titled “Player Profile #163: Michael Brantley | OF | SEA”, I immediately saw after publishing it that I had written “SEA” instead of “CLE” — for whatever reason I was thinking about Michael Saunders in the moment I was typing the title. Whoops. Enjoy the read!
At a Glance
Strengths: SB, OBP
Neutral: R, BA, SLG, OPS, net SB
Weaknesses: HR, RBI, CS
Best-case scenario: Melky Cabrera (TOR)
Likely scenario: Denard Span (WAS), Dustin Ackley (SEA), David DeJesus (CHC)
Worst-case scenario: Daniel Murphy (NYM)
Michael Brantley 2013 Fantasy Projection
When our 2013 draft guide is released with our final projections, you’ll probably see Brantley pegged for more than just 60 runs. We put these projections together in December while Shin-Soo Choo was still batting leadoff for the Indians, but with Choo now in Cincinnati and Brantley taking his spot atop the lineup, it seems Brantley has now become a good bet for 75+ runs.
That will probably come at the expense of his RBI total a tad, and the net change will probably result in a ranking similar to the 163 we have him slotted at right now, but for those of you who think Brantley will score more than 60 runs now, you’re probably right.
It used to be that Brantley would give you the occasional homer and the more occasional stolen base if you added him off free agency, but in 2013 I expect almost universal ownership of the Indians’ left fielder in all leagues of at least moderate depth. And in leagues that count OBP, Brantley’s .348 mark from last year is a pretty good estimate for what we’ll see this year.