You earn the nickname “Dr. Smooth” for a reason. For both Michael Brantley and the Indians, that reason is clear: Being the best all-around position player on a contending team. Being the best all-around player on any team, let alone a contending team, should merit an All Star appearance.
If anything, last season should have set the tone for the rest of Major League Baseball to take notice of how good he really is.
Brantley broke double digit home runs for the first time in 2013 and set a new career high in stolen bases, as well. In fact, his year was statistically good enough to produce both R and RBI numbers that, combined, was more than Bryce Harper’s. That, along with his .284 AVG, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and put Brantley on the national spotlight. What is most promising is that 2014 is shaping up to be even better.
With all the usual small sample size caveats, let’s look at what Brantley has done thus far. His 11 HR and 9 SB in 71 games puts him in pace to eclipse both totals from last season’s 10 and 17, respectively. His .322 AVG would be well above his .282 career AVG and he is on pace for more than 200 combined RBI and R. Those numbers alone should make Brantley an All Star.
Brantley, who has always made great contact, is striking out only 9.5% of the time, which is only 0.2% from being a career low. He is also walking 8.1% of the time, which is only a few percentage points from being a career high. Brantley has room for both of those numbers to slip and still be posting a career best walk to strike out ratio, which are obviously stabilizing stats.
It’s only June, but Brantley is hitting the ball harder than he has in the past, too – 284 feet on his home runs and fly balls, compared to 276 feet last year and 270 the year before. It is early to say that Brantley will continue to hit the ball with such authority, but the 11 home runs were not wall-scrapers; he has earned them.
While his batted ball distance is up about 10 feet from last year, it still comes nowhere near supporting a HR/FB rate of 20%. He might be able to sustain a doubling of his 2013 mark, which would still lead to a breakout season, but would result in a home run total a far cry away from his current 31 homer pace.
Michael Brantley should be an All-Star.
Hopefully, John Farrell can make that happen.