As you guys may have heard, the Astros are rumored to have signed Michael Brantley for 2/$32M. It was rumored a few times throughout the off-season that the Astros expressed interest, but he didn’t seem to fit a critical need - but amidst the Tucker and Reddick trade rumors, the Brantley signing seemed to align a bit better.
Does this mean a Tucker or Reddick trade is eminent? Of course not, and it was announced that he would play a mix of LF/1B/DH.
So who is Michael Brantley?
At 6’2, 205 lbs, Brantley was a 7th round draft pick, coming in at #205 overall back in 2005. John Sickels continually rated Brantley higher than scouts, with his original draft profile in his book which he profiled in his Sleeper to all-star prospect retrospective
”Milwaukee drafted Michael Brantley in the seventh round last June, out of high school in Port St.Lucie, Florida. The son of former major league outfielder Mickey Brantley, Michael looks like a real sleeper to me. He already has good speed and knows how to use it. His strike zone judgment is EXCELLENT, and he had no problems with pro pitching in his debut. He is a good defensive outfielder, well-schooled in the game. His main weakness right now is lack of power. He is still growing into his body, and at this point is content to just make contact rather than deliberately drive the ball for distance. Michael’s dad had some pop in his bat, and it will be interesting to see how much Michael himself develops. He’ll need some time to mature physically, but I’m impressed with what he has done so far. Grade C+.”
Not to skip ahead to his MLB performance, but John had a prediction back in 2009, before Brantley was even recognized as a true prospect in which he stated:
”Unsubstantiated Prediction: Michael Brantley will have an All-Star season in 2014 at the age of 27, hitting .345/.425/.470 with 55 steals, finishing second in the American League batting title race.”
Actual 2014 Season? .327/.385/.506
Prediction: .895 OPS, Actual: .891 OPS ... and yes, he was an all star, came in 3rd in the MVP race, and won Silver Slugger. Oh, and he came in 3rd for the Batting Title... some pesky 2nd baseman who had never even hit .300 in the MLB surprised everyone and won it.
I mentioned Brantley’s 2014 performance, which was a 6.5 WAR season. Unfortunately, that seems to have been his peak as a player, with no other season breaking 3.5 WAR.
For his career, Brantley holds a .295/.351/.430 triple slash, and he is predicted to hold a .288/.351/.450 triple slash next season, good for a 118 wRC+. This would have ranked him 5th last year for the Astros for all players with more than 10 AB.
In 2018, Brantley exceeded those expectations with a .309/.364/.468 season.
On the other hand, despite the articles from Minorleagueball, Brantley’s defense has never really become more than a detractor despite his speed.
Interestingly enough, the largest knock against Brantley throughout his career has been his power, and the largest positive about him has been his speed. That profile may have shifted a bit.
His projected .450 SLUG would have been the 5th highest on the Astros last year, surpassing George Springer (in an admittedly down year).
His predictions for OBP at .351 would be 3rd among the team for players with 300+ AB (though Tony Kemp and Tyler White both beat him with a lower number of ABs)
Brantley is one of the best contact hitters in the league, with a good eye for the strike zone, and an excellent ability to make contact with the ball, resulting in the 3rd highest AB per SO in all of baseball.
Also, when LF hitters have been struggling against the shift, Brantley has actually thrived against it.
Brantley has never been known for his defense. Despite his speed, I can’t foresee him taking over any position other than LF, although an approach spread across LF/1B/DH could reduce his defensive limitations.
Brantley was once known for his speed, and has been fairly consistent, never achieving less than 10 SB in seasons where he played more than 70 games, with a peak of 23 in 2014.
Oddly, Statcast found him to be significantly below average on his average run speed in 2018, coming in at 26.1 fps last year, which would fall between Marwin Gonzalez and Max Stassi.
Fangraphs is a bit more optimistic on him, with his Spd coming in at 4.8 (4.5 is Average, 5.5 is Above Average).
Brantley is a 3-time all-star, and a big name signing for the Astros. At 31 years old, his 2-year contract can’t be considered an albatross in any way, with a high likelihood that he more than lives up to the dollar value associated with the contract.
We had some discussion with the writers in regards to the signing, and there were mixed opinions, but far more tempered reactions than what was posted on the thread about his signing. I liked Brantley and originally offered to do the positive side of the debate for Brantley. With that said, I can’t help but feel that this trade is a bit unnecessary WITHOUT another move. I mean, sure he’s a bit of an offensive upgrade from Reddick, but it’s not earth shattering. He could fill LF full-time, but then Tucker is out of a spot. He could be DH, but he is definitely not the traditional player in that sense.
To me, this seems like a precursory move. My guess (pure wild speculation) is that the Astros have a trade lined up for Kyle Tucker. It could be Reddick, as the Astros were rumored to be exploring to find a trade partner for him, but since they’d likely have to eat payroll and the offensive improvement being somewhat offset by the reduced defensive performance, it doesn’t make sense.
Although I’d hate to lose Tucker, I wouldn’t be opposed if he was in a trade for a high profile Starting Pitcher with multiple years of club control due to the potential losses of Verlander and Cole compounded to this year’s losses.
We will keep the article up to date with news of the signing. Let us know your thoughts!
Are you happy with the Brantley signing?
This poll is closed