Two weeks ago, there were a few hours, where we all thought Michael Brantley would be joining George Springer in Toronto. The Houston Astros at that point were looking to be out of contention as their best regular season hitter from 2020 was gone, and while we all thought he was a lock to return, the report of Brantley joining the Blue Jays struck concern in fans’ minds. The report fell through, and while Brantley and the Blue Jays were negotiating a deal, the Astros would respond later that day by signing the four time All-Star.
The return of Brantley to Houston relaxed many fans of the Astros, but there are others need to be met before this team is in a dominant form. We could go on and on about the need of a center fielder, a closer, and rotation depth, but having Brantley back means the Astros are going to contend for another pennant.
Brantley signed a two-year, $32 million deal with the Astros on January 20, as reported by Mark Berman. The Astros left fielder won’t have competition for his position in 2021, but with Yordan Alvarez making his return to the lineup, a healthy Brantley is all we can ask for.
How MLB Network ranked Michael Brantley 2nd?
MLB Network has concluded their Top 10 Players at each position, and while four Astros made their respected lists, Brantley stood in the top two for left field. The position looks much different from years past, as only Brantley and Oakland A Mark Cahna survive from last year’s rankings. The reasoning behind this is players switching positions. The only outfielder to rank higher was Milwaukee Brewer Christian Yelich (right fielder in 2019), who is two years removed from an MVP season.
Brantley has all the reasons in the world to be ranked so high at his position, and while right field looks to be the most star studded outfield cast, left field is home to new names. The left-hander didn’t start too many games in front of the Crawford Boxes due to a quad injury, and the fact the designated hitting role was open with Alvarez being hurt. Out of 46 games in 2020, Brantley only started 19 of them in left field. This also led to a great campaign from Kyle Tucker.
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Through 187 plate appearances, the former Cleveland Indian slashed .300/.364/.476 with five home runs and 22 RBI in his second season with the Astros, and while these numbers are down from his first season in Houston, the small sample size and injury played a role in his stunted progression.
Injuries have plagued the 33-year-old in the past, but his dominance has continued. As an aging outfielder with leg issues, his future might be in the DH role in the near future. At the moment, this is not an option for Brantley with the return of Alvarez, but when needing an off day from the field, the Astros will have to make a few shifts to structure in replacements.
Brantley’s future will be held in two-year deals as seen by his last two signings. When fully healthy, the left-hander has been nothing but perfect in the outfield, and while he might not see action in any other part of the field in 2021, he is no doubt the lock for left. Brantley is a man of little mistakes and great adjustments, and as an aging player, he has gotten better as his career progresses.