Michael Brantley Playing First Base Ahead of Big League Return
By Alec Brown
The Astros scuffling offense should be getting a much needed boost in short order. Michael Brantley is set to make his season debut on Monday. Brantley is hitting .273 with an .801 OPS across his eight games in Sugar Land.
We all know Uncle Mike can fall out of bed and hit .300. What is more interesting than his performance at the plate is what Brantley has done on the defensive end. Last night, Brantley moved to first base in the sixth inning, finishing the night as a corner infielder.
Brantley started at first base tonight for Sugar Land. Uncle Mike hadn't played first base since he was a rising prospect in 2008. Brantley began taking reps at first in the Spring, mostly as a result of his recovering shoulder and to help lighten the load. At the time, it was mostly expected to be a backup option and something that wouldn't be seen too regularly.
As Brantley nears his return, he may spend more time at first base than any of us would have thought. Houston dished out $19 million a year to José Abreu to be a premier run producer. He has been anything but, hitting .227 with a .524 OPS. Only Jean Segura has a worse OPS of everyday players. He's batted cleanup almost everyday and has only 13 RBI to show for it.
When Abreu starts at DH in order to get a rest, David Hensley starts at 1B, and Hensley has somehow been worse. In their 32 games, Astros' first baseman are batting .213 with a .503 OPS.
You could blindfold Michael Brantley and tie one hand behind his back and he'd manage to top those numbers.
It is unknown who will be sent down to Sugar Land upon Brantley's return, but Corey Julks has made a compelling case to stay with the big league club. It's unlikely we see Uncle Mike play first every day after the investment Houston made in Abreu, but his ability to play the corner does likely make Hensley expendable.
With his return just around the corner, it will be interesting to see how soon Uncle Mike finds himself in the infield with the big league club. If the offense continues to struggle and Abreu can't find a way to begin doing damage, it may be sooner than we think.