What might have been in 2017 if the Cleveland Indians had their All-Star left fielder for the entire season…Yes, the club won 22 games in a row and Michael Brantley didn’t receive a plate appearance during that streak, as he was stuck on the disabled list yet again. Brantley has played in all of 101 games since the start of the 2016 season, amassing 418 plate appearances. As a fan, you’d like to think that the club is better with him, but it is hard to determine that. After a breakout 2014 and 2015, Brantley has become Grady Sizemore, only, he hasn’t yet reached the ceiling that Sizemore did in his time in Cleveland. Unfortunately, the Brantley Era is set to come to an end, barring a team-friendly extension, and it is an $11 million question as to whether it was worth the risk of picking up an option for another player who can’t stay on the field.
The Anti-Modern Era Player
“Dr. Smooth” has a sweet swing and is the anti-modern era player, as he has struck out in just 10.9% of his plate appearances (7.9% walk rate). As so many players have changed launch angles and swung for the fences, Brantley topped out at 20 bombs in 2014, his age-27 season, which led to his first All-Star appearance and a Silver Slugger, prior to dealing with injuries over the last few seasons. Sadly, the injury-led decline has made Brantley an unreliable asset as the club heads into 2018 with another question mark next to his name, as he is likely to miss some time in the first month after having surgery on his right ankle to end his 2017 season.
A healthy Michael Brantley makes the Tribe an offensive force. A healthy Michael Brantley allows Brandon Guyer, Rajai Davis, Melvin Upton, and Tyler Naquin to stay in reserve roles, where their weaknesses can’t be exploited so extensively. A healthy Michael Brantley gives the Tribe an additional middle-of-the-order threat, one who, when teamed with Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and the formidable pitching staff, makes the Indians one of the top three teams in the American League (with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees). However, much like Grady Sizemore before him, “Dr. Smooth” has reached the point of not being a reliable piece of the puzzle.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the 2018 projections for the Indians’ left fielder:
- Baseball Prospectus: 2.7 WARP in 2018 (just 1.4 projected WARP in 2019)
- Depth Charts: 2.2 WAR
- Steamers: 1.6 WAR
- ZiPS: 1.9 WAR
- Baseball Reference:
This is the swan song year for Brantley in an Indian uniform. He has been an asset for the club far beyond his healthy, productive seasons, as his leadership and effort in the Cleveland community have been significant. Those glory years will make parting such sweet sorrow after the 2018 season, as the team and fans can be reflective about his contributions without paying him such a ridiculous salary.
Featured image courtesy of Erik Drost, Flickr