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This Year’s Michael Brantley: Three Candidates Primed For a Jump in Production

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This year’s Michael Brantley will be hard to find, as it should be. It is really tough to predict who is going to go from the relatively unknown to be a breakout player, like Brantley was last season hitting career highs in every category. If it was easy to find these players, I would draft every single one of them every year, and probably win every single league I was in.

So what is the alternative to not being a psychic? Look at trends in players and analyze who has the best chance of being this year’s Michael Brantley.

First, let’s look at exactly who Michael Brantley was last year and who he is this year.

  • Brantley was a good player, entering his fifth full-time season in the majors at age 26 going on 27 (we also share a birthday, so he must be cool right?),
  • But Brantley was not somebody you thought was going to be a major producer for your team, with a career season in 2013 of 10 home runs, 66 runs, 73 RBI and 17 steals. All fine numbers and a great complementary piece, but was a far-cry from being a top outfield option.
  • Then last season, instead of being just a complementary piece, Brantley broke out and was a 20/20 player and neared 100 runs and RBI.
  • Pair all that with a .327 batting average and he was truly a great Fantasy Baseball option last season.

Who Can Be This Year’s Michael Brantley?

I was looking for players who had power/speed combo capabilities already, who haven’t seemed to reach their full potential.

At the same time, I was looking for those players who are at or near the mythical 27 years of age and who have played multiple years in the majors already. Guys who were being overlooked in drafts, just like Brantley was last year. I found Yahoo’s 2014 Fantasy Baseball rankings and he was ranked 183rd overall, but I’m fairly sure he was drafted much later than that in your leagues.

Not all of the players I discuss will turn into this year’s Michael Brantley — and it is very possible that none of them do. What I am trying to do is give you the players who have the potential! Let’s get to it!

A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Pollock was having a fantastic 2014 before he was hit with a pitch that broke his hand. In those first two months he was not an everyday player to start the season, so he only saw 111 at bats. He was still able to hit six home runs, steal eight bases, score 24 runs, all while hitting .316. If he had gotten 550 at bats, he was on pace to finish with 18 home runs, 87 runs and 24 steals — numbers that you would have gladly taken for your team.

It almost isn’t fair to pick Pollock as this year’s Michael Brantley, since last year he was on pace with Brantley until the injury. However, because he is being forgotten about in drafts, currently 199 on, I wanted to make sure I mentioned him.

Dexter Fowler, OF, Chicago Cubs

Credit: Keith Allison

Dexter Fowler Photo Credit: Keith Allison

I know, I know — really? Dexter Fowler.

He teases us every since year, with stretches of amazing baseball. He just can’t keep it going consistently. This is exactly why I’m pegging him as one of the possible players to be this year’s Michael Brantley.

Fowler has already proven he has the speed and power combo, stealing double-digit bases every season in the majors and hitting for double-digit home runs in two of the last three seasons.

It is also worth mentioning that he has not played a full season any year because of injury or just inconsistent play sending him to the bench. That could be a major red flag, but in Chicago I fully expect him to get every chance to play as the everyday center fielder, so his counting stats should definitely rise.

Besides a needed jump in power, Fowler needs his batting average to improve to really be able to get into Brantley territory. It is not bad, .271 career average, but this is the one category he lacks in compared to the two others mentioned here.

Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals

Cain already has the speed, we all knew that by watching him steal 28 bases last season. Now, we just need him to improve his power.

For those of you who don’t think a player who has hit only nine home runs in the last two seasons can hit for power, think again. Back in 2012, Cain hit seven home runs in just 244 at bats. He also hit 16 dingers in 2011, while in the minors.

With the extra speed Cain gives you over a player like Brantley, we don’t need him to hit 20-plus home runs to return the same value. As long as he can hit around 15 home runs, he will be just as valuable. I think that is very possible for him since his fly-ball percentage is almost identical to Brantley’s. Cain just needs to get his HR/FB ratio back up above 10%, like it was in 2012, when he hit those seven home runs in 244 at bats.
Michael Brantley Photo Credit: Keith Allison

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