You never know when it’s time for a player to fully develop; some catch on early, but others, like Michael Brantley, need more time to adjust at the major league level. Brantley is a veteran now at age of 27 with five-plus years of experience in the big leagues, but despite having over 2,100 at-bats in the majors, Brantley is just now filling out his potential.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2005 draft, Michael Brantley spent four full seasons in the minors before being called up at the age of 22. In 2009-10 he split time between the majors and minors before sticking with the big league club for good.
In 2,122 minor league at-bats, Brantley compiled a .303 average and .388 OBP to go along with 162 stolen bases. In the minors, Brantley was never much of a home run guy, never hitting more than six in any season, but he’s added some power as he’s gotten older.
In 2013, Brantley hit 10 home runs, and he’s already hit nine this year. He has almost the same at-bats in the majors now that he garnered in the minors, and his numbers are .279/.333, which don’t exactly reflect who he was in the minors.
In the minors, he never struck out more than 51 times in a season, but he’s surpassed that total three years in a row now in the bigs. Also, he recorded a stolen base every 3.5 games in the minors. In the majors, he’s stealing a base every nine games; although that may have something to do with his OBP being 55 points lower in the majors than in the minors.
In 2014, he’s striking out just once every 10.4 at-bats, and he’s stealing a bag every 7.5 games. Of course, with his power going up, as well as his build, you would expect the stolen base numbers to decline, but it’s still encouraging to see that number up slightly. Even more importantly, he’s been better than his strikeout pace in the minors, which was a K every 9.7 at-bats. In his first five major league seasons, he was striking out once every 7.6 at-bats.
His OBP this year is at .369 through 178 at-bats, which would be the best of his career, although still not as good as his minor league total, which I doubt he ever achieves in the majors.
Strikeouts and OBP aren’t everything, but they usually give you an indication of how comfortable a hitter is at the plate. With Brantley striking out less and getting on base more, it tells you he’s finally adjusting at the major league level.
As far as defense goes, I don’t personally watch Michael Brantley enough to know how well he fares, but from the numbers and what I’ve read, he’s an above-average defender.
We’ve been waiting for a few years now to see the full development of Michael Brantley, and I believe we’re finally seeing it in 2014. I’m not sure Brantley will become a perennial All-Star in the American League, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him develop into .290, 15 home run type guy that can still 25-plus bases. He’s a player the Indians will be glad to have around for the next four years.