Tag: Michael Brantley

Michael Brantley Injury: Updates on Indians OF’s Recovery from Shoulder Surgery

Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley missed nearly the entire 2016 season due to a shoulder injury, and that ailment could cost him time in 2017 as well. 

Continue for updates.

Brantley May Not Be Ready for 2017

Thursday, Sept. 29

According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, a source indicated that Brantley could miss significant time in 2017 after undergoing surgery on his shoulder that reportedly involved “re-anchor[ing] the muscle to the bone.”

Brantley missed the start of 2016 due to the injury, and after appearing in 11 games, he went back on the shelf and underwent season-ending biceps tenodesis surgery in August.

Despite reports of a longer recovery, Indians president Chris Antonetti told Heyman the following: “Nothing new on Michael. He underwent biceps tenodesis surgery with an expected recovery time of four months.”

The 29-year-old star hit just .231 with no home runs and seven RBI in 11 games this year following the two best seasons of his career.

Brantley was an All-Star for the first time, won his first Silver Slugger Award and finished third in American League MVP voting by virtue of his .327 batting average, 20 home runs, 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases two years ago.

He followed that up with another superb campaign in 2015, hitting .310 with 15 homers, 84 RBI and 15 swipes.

Brantley entered 2016 on the disabled list after suffering a shoulder injury, however, and missed a few weeks before returning to action near the end of April. He went back on the 15-day DL after just 11 contests because of further issues with his shoulder.

After that, Indians manager Terry Francona placed some blame on himself for rushing Brantley back into the lineup, according to Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com: “I’m kind of kicking myself a little bit. I think we might have gone a little too far, too much, too fast. I didn’t want to do that, and I think we probably did.”

Despite being without Brantley for nearly the entire season, the Tribe reached the playoffs for the first time since 2013 on the strength of a dominant starting rotation.

Cleveland has also received stellar play from other outfielders such as Tyler Naquin, Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall.

The return of Brantley next season promises to give the Indians a huge offensive boost regardless of when it happens, but until it does, they need Naquin to keep up his high level of play, since he is the closest thing they have to a five-tool outfielder aside from Brantley.


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Michael Brantley Injury: Updates on Indians Star’s Shoulder and Recovery

Michael Brantley‘s terrific 2015 season ended on Sept. 28 after he suffered a small tear to the labrum on his non-throwing shoulder. He eventually had surgery to repair the injury. It remains unclear if he’ll be ready for the start of the 2016 season. 

Continue for updates. 

Bastian: Brantley Hoping for Opening Day Return

Thursday, Jan. 28

According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Brantley is “progressing well, and said his goal is to be back by Opening Day. But, knows that might not be realistic.”

Brantley, who was originally acquired by Cleveland in the CC Sabathia trade with Milwaukee in 2008, has turned into a quiet superstar. 

In 2014, he was named to his first All-Star team and finished third in AL MVP voting after posting a .327/.385/.506 slash line with 45 doubles, 20 home runs, 23 stolen bases and 200 hits. He followed that up with a strong 2015 season that included a slash of .310/.379/.480 with 15 homes runs and 84 RBI in just 137 games.

Injuries have never been a major problem for Brantley, who had played in at least 149 games every season since 2012. 

The Indians were disappointing in 2015, finishing 13.5 games behind the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central, though Brantley did everything he could to keep them afloat. Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor have been the only other consistent sources of production in Cleveland’s lineup, so the loss of Brantley left a huge void it could not replace. 

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Michael Brantley Injury: Updates on Indians OF’s Recovery from Shoulder Surgery

Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Monday in Wilmington, Delaware, and he is projected to be sidelined for the start of the 2016 season.  

Continue for updates.

Brantley Out 5-6 Months After Shoulder Operation

Monday, Nov. 9

The Indians announced the news on Brantley’s status and recovery from a small tear to his labrum, also indicating Brantley initially injured himself on Sept. 22 while trying to make a diving catch against the Minnesota Twins.

Although Brantley showed signs of progress trying to rehab the injury without a medical procedure, his pain persisted, and he sought a second opinion before deciding surgery was the best option.

The good news is the 28-year-old’s injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, which is encouraging for his long-term prognosis. Brantley was an All-Star in 2014 and fought through multiple ailments last season to have another stellar year with a .310 batting average, 15 home runs and 84 RBI.

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Mike Trout and Biggest Snubs for 2013 Gold Glove Award

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is probably wondering why he got snubbed when Rawlings announced the finalists for the 2013 Gold Glove Awards.

For the most part, the experts that make up the panel to determine the finalists usually get it right.  Nearly every one of the finalists on the list is deserving in one way or another.  As always, though, mixing facts with opinions will leave players out of the conversation who should otherwise be there.

Trout, Matt Carpenter, Michael Brantley and Josh Donaldson will have an entire year to think about being snubbed.

Explaining and understanding the rating criteria used to determine finalists can be hazardous to your health, but if you want to know how Rawlings uses sabermetrics to make the determinations, read more at MLB.com

There always will be snubs, which is unfortunate.  These players should have at least been brought into the final conversation. Let us take a look at why.

Mike Trout—Center Field, Anaheim Angels

2013 Fielding Percentage: .994

Putouts: 359 (2nd in AL)

There are those who argued that Trout was snubbed for a Gold Glove nomination back in 2012.  That was a pretty good argument.

It is worth noting that last season, Trout posted a .988 fielding percentage, recording 340 putouts on 347 chances against three errors. 

He improved on that number in 2013, upping his fielding percentage to .994, with 359 putouts in 361 chances with only two errors.

What more could Trout have done?

Comparing Trout to a member of the competition—Lorenzo Cain, who was nominated—gives us further insight into the snub.

Make no mistake, Cain is a terrific outfielder and worthy of recognition.  Yet Cain played in fewer games than Trout—113 to 148, respectively—and had a lower fielding percentage (.990) and one more error in 2013.

Based on those numbers alone, Trout should have been in the discussion over Cain.

Bill Shaikin of The Los Angeles Times notes that Trout was not as good sabermetrically, which hurt his chances.

Did Rawlings get this call right?  Based on the sabermetrics, perhaps they did.  Based on more traditional statistics, they were wrong. 

As a result, Trout gets snubbed once more.


Matt Carpenter—Second Base, St. Louis Cardinals

2013 Fielding Percentage: .985

Assists: 429 (4th in NL)

Like Trout in the American League, it is hard to fathom leaving Carpenter off the list of Gold Glove nominees.

All he did was record a .985 fielding percentage while committing only nine errors over the course of 2013.

Carpenter also led the league in double plays turned at second base with 97. 

It is hard to argue that Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs or Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds do not deserve nominations, but Carpenter should at least get the nod over Dodgers’ second baseman Mark Ellis.

Ellis was solid with the glove and committed three fewer errors during the season.  But he also played in 13 fewer games.  His range factor per game (putouts plus assists over games played) was 4.43 compared to Carpenter’s 5.00 mark.

Carpenter got to more balls and had more chances.  Yes, those chances can lead to more errors, but they also have a bigger impact on the game’s outcome.  Here, Carpenter’s value should have increased considerably.

Sadly, it did not.


Michael Brantley—Left Field, Cleveland Indians

2013 Fielding Percentage: 1.000 (1st in AL)

Assists: 11

Brantley ranked second in the American League with 257 putouts and third with 11 assists.

Take his 257 putouts out of 268 chances with zero errors, and it is impossible to overlook Brantley in the AL Gold Glove discussion in left field.

That is exactly what happened, however.

Brantley should have gotten the nomination over Oakland Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes due to a number of factors.

Cespedes played in only 94 games in left field and posted a .980 fielding percentage.  Compared to Brantley’s 151 games in left and perfect fielding record, the numbers state that Brantley should have received the nomination.

Sorry Rawlings, you got this one wrong.

It is hard to fathom why Brantley got snubbed in this year’s nominations.  He could easily be a top vote-getter, let alone a nominee.


Josh Donaldson—Third Base, Oakland Athletics

2013 Fielding Percentage: .961

Putouts: 143 (1st in AL)

Perhaps playing in Oakland prevents Donaldson from receiving some of the love he deserves. 

Statistics, being what they are, do not care about location or fanbases, and they should have been enough to warrant a nomination for the A’s third baseman.

Donaldson owned a .961 fielding percentage at the hot corner in 2013.  He committed 16 errors in 414 chances, yet led the league in putouts and played in the third-most games (155) at the position.

Compare those numbers to those of Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Beltre played in 146 games this season, had a .959 fielding percentage and committed 14 errors in 339 chances.

Beltre already has the accolades of being a Gold Glove third baseman—he received back-to-back awards in 2007 and 2008—yet his 2013 nomination is a complete snub to Donaldson.

It is clear that Beltre no longer possesses the range he once enjoyed.  Donaldson still has that ability, and the numbers prove so.

As John Shea of The San Francisco Chronicle notes, 2013 has turned into a disappointing year for Donaldson regarding accolades.  Still, Donaldson has to be pleased with how he performed.

Too bad it was not enough to get him a much-deserved Gold Glove nomination.


With all selection processes, there is the possibility that snubs will happen.  The 2013 Gold Glove selection process has lived up to that statement.

All four of these players deserve recognition for this award.  Sadly, they will not receive it. 

However the selections are made and the nominees chosen, these snubs will have to sit back and watch as others receive an award that possibly could have been theirs.  It raises the argument as to what exactly is important in determining finalists.

That argument is best suited, perhaps, for another time. 

Meanwhile, all those who were snubbed can hope for is that 2014 provides a better opportunity to cash in on the accolade of being a Gold Glove recipient.


All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.


Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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5 Things That Can Salvage the Cleveland Indians’ 2012 Season

The second half of the season has not been kind to the Cleveland Indians. Since the All-Star break, Cleveland is 11-32 with losing streaks of 11 and nine games. They can’t hit (27th in MLB in the second half, .231 team average), they can’t pitch (28th in MLB, 5.30 team ERA) and if it weren’t for the Astros (who are 7-35 since the break), they could be labeled the worst team in baseball since July 13.

There does not seem to be much that the Cleveland Indians can do at this point to salvage the 2012 season. Mathematically, there are reasons to think that they can, but realistically, it is not in the cards.

Sitting 16.5 games out of the AL Central heading into Tuesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics, how can the Cleveland Indians salvage this season?

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Grady Sizemore Injured: Why the Cleveland Indians Need Shelley Duncan to Shine

With Grady Sizemore likely to miss Opening Day with a back injury, the Cleveland Indians will likely need to have Shelley Duncan produce in his absence.

Even the most optimistic Sizemore supporters like me figured that he would manage to make it to Spring Training before getting hurt. Somehow, that’s not the case.

While I still have faith that Grady will have some value this year, we’ve already reached the point in the season where the Tribe will need to find someone to replace Sizemore in the lineup.

Considering how I think Michael Brantley should get a shot in center field and could have a breakout year, the Indians will probably need to find a replacement in left field for at least part of the season.

I’d like to see Shelley Duncan get the first shot at filling that role.

2011 saw Duncan establish himself as a legitimate major league hitter. He had a strong .260/.324/.484 slash line, .808 OPS (123 OPS+), .346 wOBA (118 wRC+), 11 HR and 47 RBI in 247 PA. Despite the average OBP, he showed enough power to make himself a well above-average hitter.

There’s a good chance that Duncan will continue to improve in 2012. Check out how Bill James projects him for 2012:

.249/.335/.465 slash line, .344 wOBA, 13 HR, 45 RBI in 270 PA

Not a bad line at all. Plus, since that projection is only for a part-time role (270 PA would be roughly 64 full games), Duncan would be even better if these projections were stretched out for a full season, hitting 31 home runs and driving in 108 runs.

Now, the trade off with Duncan is that he’s not a great defender or baserunner. Assuming he’s slightly below average defensively and an average baserunner (assumptions that are backed up by the numbers on his Fangraphs page), we can use the Simple WAR calculator to get Duncan’s projected WAR to be around 1.9.

A 1.9 WAR isn’t going to be getting Duncan into the Hall of Fame or an All-Star game, but it is a perfectly good number for a regular player. Also considering the value Sizemore’s held over the past two years (-0.1 fWAR in 104 games), Duncan could end up being an upgrade.

There’s still a chance that Sizemore gets healthy and figures it out in 2012. But the key thing to remember is even though Shelley Duncan isn’t as big of a name as Grady Sizemore, he very well could be more use in helping the Indians win.

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Gems: American League

J.J. Hardy, SS Baltimore Orioles (23 percent owned in Yahoo, 37.1 percent ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .288 AVG / 19 R / 6 HR / 19 RBI / 0 SB

Hardy has been a monster the past 14 days hitting .375 AVG, 11 R, four HR, seven RBI. It seems like everyone has forgotten his ’07 and ’08 seasons with the Brewers when he hit .280 AVG, 167 R, 50 HR, 164 RBI. I am writing off last year as a fluke because Target Field is a tough place to call home. Now he is in a park that is very friendly to right-handed hitters.

My Projection: .279 AVG / 80 R / 20 HR / 65 RBI / 2 SB


Michael Brantley, OF Cleveland Indians (49 percent owned in Yahoo, 83 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .293 AVG / 35 R / 5 HR / 26 RBI / 8 SB

You Yahoo people need to get with the program. I don’t know what else this guy has to do to be more universally owned. He is sitting atop a good AL lineup that will continue to score runs, he is taking walks at a decent clip and the batting average should stick. I would like to see him be more active on the base paths because he has shown the ability in the minors and don’t expect 15 home runs.

My Projection: .290 AVG / 100 R / 10 HR / 62 RBI / 29 SB


Corey Patterson, OF Toronto Blue Jays (43 percent owned in Yahoo, 77.8 percent ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .293 AVG / 35 R / 5 HR / 28 RBI / 9 SB

If Brantley isn’t available in your league, hopefully Patterson is because you are getting similar production. He has not consistently hit for high average in his career (.255 career AVG) but it should remain respectable if he continues to hit in front of Bautista and Lind. His .153 ISO is in-line with his career mark of .151 ISO so 15 HR is not out of the question. He has been caught stealing 6 times but the Jays are very aggressive on the bases so he still has the green light.

My Projection: .270 AVG / 85 R / 15 HR / 65 RBI / 30 SB


Mark Trumbo, 1B Los Angeles Angels (34 percent owned in Yahoo, 79.2 percent ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .252 AVG / 23 R / 11 HR / 29 RBI / 6 SB

Mark Trumbo’s Yahoo ownership level baffles me. In the minors last year, he hit .299 AVG with 36 HR and he is showing the same type of power in the majors. This guy is a near lock for 25 HR and the stolen bases are an added bonus. He has been hitting out of the seven spot more often than I would like but he may get an opportunity to move up.

My Projection: 250 AVG / 65 R / 26 HR / 79 RBI / 12 SB


Miguel Olivo, C Seattle Mariners (31 percent owned in Yahoo, 29.2 percent ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .241 AVG / 28 R / 8 HR / 30 RBI / 2 SB

In a year that the catcher position is so thin, Olivo deserves a good look. Seattle may not have the best lineup in the world (or 28th best) but Olivo is batting cleanup or fifth everyday for the Mariners. In the past seven games he has four HR and 11 RBI. He may finish the year as a top ten catcher so give him a shot.

My Projection: .250 AVG / 72 R / 22 HR / 85 RBI / 4 SB

Click here for our other waiver wire gems!

Brian “Killboy” Kilpatrick is a Senior Writer for 4thandHome.com, where this, and other work, can be found. Additionally, he is co-host of The 4th and Home Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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Fantasy Baseball Sleeper: Michael Brantley

Michael Brantley’s 2010 curse may be your 2011 blessing.

The young speedster had a hell of a time getting into any sort of rhythm last season. He struggled out the gate and battled a string of ailments, including shoulder, hamstring and ankle injuries.

And to rub salt in the guy’s wounds, the Cleveland Indians demoted the kid twice. His April and July numbers were deplorable.

However, all of that could be a good thing for fantasy savvy GMs.

The Indians handed the 23-year-old the role of leadoff hitter and center fielder in August, and Brantley closed out the season by hitting .290 down the stretch and stealing eight bags in nine attempts.

Brantley is a contact hitter with solid plate discipline, but the best part is he could very well swipe 30 bags in 2011, making him a very legitimate 2011 fantasy sleeper.

He has more athleticism than Juan Pierre, if that gives you any indication of what his blossoming potential could become. 

He reminds me of a former Indian—a young Kenny Lofton. I’d certainly rather take a shot on Brantley’s upside than waste a bench spot on Nyjer Morgan‘s one-category upside.

He’s currently only owned in about one percent of leagues at this point.

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Choo-Se Wisely, Shin-Soo Tops Cleveland Indians 2010 Season Awards

The Indians’ disappointing summer is finally over, finishing with a 69-93 record, but still beating out the Kansas City Royals for fourth place in the AL Central.

Before we look ahead to next season, let’s hand out some awards for the Wahoo Warriors who deserve them most.

Not surprisingly, the Choo train tops the list.

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Tribe Talk: So, Cleveland, How’s That Rebuilding Thing Going?


Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we evaluate Manny Acta‘s performance in his first season as Indians manager, assess the team’s rebuilding efforts by examining the cases of a few specific players, and predict what the future has in store for the Tribe at third base.

I would like to thank this week’s participants Nino Colla, The Coop, and Lewie Pollis for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. A rebuilding effort such as the one the Indians are involved in now depends largely on the progress of the young talent the team has committed to, and how good a job the front office did evaluating on-field talent in the first place. 

The same can be said of the coaching staff during a rebuilding effort. Well into the second half of the season, how would you rate Manny Acta’s performance in his first year managing the Indians? 

Do you think the front office hired the right person for the job? What do you see as Acta’s biggest strength as manager? What do you see as his biggest weakness?


Samantha Bunten: Perhaps my standards are just exceptionally low from spending too many years watching Eric Wedge, but I am totally and completely sold on Manny Acta

He had me way back in May when he was asked about finding non-pressure situations for Rafael Perez to pitch in so he could get his confidence back, and his response was “Life is tough. Get a helmet.”

Acta is a tough-but-fair, no-nonsense kind of guy, which is exactly what a young, struggling team needs. He sticks up for and encourages his players, but he also doesn’t mince words when calling someone out for their mistakes. 

He’s also a purist who respects the tradition of the game. For example, he refused to allow post-game interviewers to turn his move to pitch Marte in relief into some sort of cutesy little gimmick. 

Truthfully, I don’t really know if Acta has what it takes in the long run to turn this team into a winner. But a lot of that is not in his hands. Thus far, I think he’s done the best job possible with the team he was given. 

As the team improves in the coming years, we’ll see if Acta can truly be a difference maker as a manager. One thing seems certain though: unlike Eric Wedge, he certainly won’t be a hindrance to the team’s forward progress.

Nino Colla: I think Manny Acta has done a fantastic job and I’m pleased with the choice the front office made from the candidate pool they had. Acta was the right man for this job and he’s clearly got this young team behind him.

It is hard to rate him because the team isn’t winning a lot of games. It’s hard to be taken seriously if you grade him highly despite the low win total, but I think for the circumstances that are present and for the tasks that he has to complete, he’s done a great job. 

His biggest strengths are his motivation and his game play. I love his style of managing a ball club because he isn’t going to kid anyone. He knows what kind of team he has and he plays to their strengths. He’s constantly trying to scratch out runs because he knows he has a lot of young players. 

I’ve also been favorable about the way he’s run his bullpen. You haven’t seen anyone go a long period of time with no use and he’s always throwing the hot hand in there. The same with his lineup. He’s not shy about moving his hot hitters up. 

I haven’t been a fan of pushing Brantley the way they did early on, but clearly Acta is trying to establish confidence in his young players that he thinks will be a big part of the future.

Lewie Pollis: I’d give him a solid B. 

I can’t really point to many specific things he’s done well, but when you think about, that’s pretty mark much the mark of a good manager–you don’t think about him. 

Take Ron Washington, for example: he’s probably the favorite for AL Manager of the Year. Is that because people think highly of his game theory? No, it’s because he doesn’t make very many bone-headed mistakes (also because his team is good). 

With that in mind, I think Acta’s done a decent job and I think he’ll grow with his young team. My one real complaint is his stubbornness with giving playing time to underperforming veterans, which seems counterintuitive to the rebuilding process. 

It’s not just Jhonny Peralta—how about Austin Kearns? From June 12, when he woke up with a .902 OPS, to July 30, his last game in a Cleveland uniform, he hit .221/.294/.287 with one homer and 11 RBI in 35 games. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a rebuilding team let a guy with a .581 OPS and no future with the team 33 starts in 43 games. 

Granted, that probably wasn’t just Acta’s decision; the front office was hoping to flip him to a contender, and he wasn’t going to open any eyes by sitting on the bench. Still, I would have much rather given the playing time to someone like Jordan Brown.

The Coop: If I had to give Acta a grade for his performance, it would certainly be “Incomplete.” It’s just too hard to evaluate someone who is working with such a young and generally sub-standard major league roster. 

However, I must say that it’s very refreshing to watch a manager who doesn’t long to be the center of attention. Acta’s predecessor was a nobody, and yet he seemed to make it all about him. Acta is the exact opposite. He’s not smug and arrogant, but honest and fair.

Acta seems to get maximum effort out of his players, and I can’t ask for much more than that in a forsaken season. 

The true test of that, of course, will be the team’s performance over the final few months of the season, when the games are virtually meaningless. I think that if the Indians finish strong, he will be a big reason why.

2. Let’s take a look at a few of the players around whom the rebuilding effort is centered. 

First up: Matt LaPorta

After struggling early in his Indians debut last season and continuing to have trouble adjusting early this season, it appears Matt LaPorta has finally started to come into his own. 

Are you pleased with where LaPorta is at in his development at the moment? Do you think that the adjustments made by LaPorta in his most recent minor league stint have finally translated into success at the major league level?

What do you like about what we’re seeing from LaPorta right now? What areas of his game do you feel he still needs to improve?

Samantha Bunten: I’m happy with what we’re seeing from LaPorta at the moment. The real question is, is he truly making solid progress, or is he just on a hot streak?

At this point, I’m inclined to say that he’s really making some legitimate strides. Unlike a lot of players who are resentful when they’re sent down repeatedly and spend their stint in the minors pouting instead of seeking to improve their game, LaPorta appears to have used his time wisely. 

I’m not sure I think he’s a better hitter now, but he’s definitely a smarter hitter. For a guy like LaPorta, who clearly has the raw skills necessary to succeed at the plate, that’s really what matters. 

He still strikes out far too often, but it’s obvious his pitch selection is improving. He’s horrifying on the basepaths, but then you don’t see many first basemen who aren’t. 

Defensively, he’s far from fantastic, but he’s not a liability either. Most of the botched plays we’ve seen at first this season were the result of bad throws, not LaPorta’s inability to field the ball properly.

Nino Colla: I’m very pleased with what Matt LaPorta has done with his game. It sounds like they adjusted his swing when he went down. 

But really I think the biggest thing with him is confidence. And health. He got a little confidence boost by not only going to Columbus and mashing, but by having the club trade Branyan and basically say, “Okay, it’s your show now.” 

The thing I like most is his hitting off left-handed pitching. I pointed out a long time ago when he was struggling that he never really hit left-handed pitching well, even in the minor leagues. So far his power numbers are still trending toward right-handed pitching, but he’s been consistent against the lefties by at least drawing walks and doing a good job of making contact and getting hits. 

You also have to like the defense he’s playing. It isn’t Gold Glove by any means, but he isn’t bad back there.

Lewie Pollis: I’m just going to come out and say it: I love what we’ve seen from LaPorta over the last month-and-a-half. 

As of this writing, he’s gone .286/.353/.496 since being recalled for the minors, and would be on pace for 27 homers and 90 RBI over a full season. Those certainly aren’t MVP numbers, and I’m guessing the ceiling Mark Shapiro and company envisioned when they traded for him two years ago was higher than what he’s doing now. But it’s huge progress. 

The best part is that his stint in the minors really seems to have helped. Since returning to MLB, he’s struck out in exactly 20 percent of his plate appearances—still a bit too high for my taste, but certainly not intolerable for someone with his power. The exciting part, though, is his 10-percent walk rate, which indicates an improvement in what was the most worrying aspect of his game. 

I would, however, like to see some improvement on the basepaths. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone that slow since Manny.

The Coop: I am most impressed by LaPorta’s character. Instead of sulking when he was sent down, LaPorta used his demotion to hone his swing. He dominated Triple-A pitching and proved that he belongs in the majors. 

When he was recalled, he made the most of it. While he cooled off a little in July, he’s had a good August so far, and I think he’s only going to get better. 

He’s also proven to have a very capable glove. I think he might have been pressing early on, trying to live up to the hype and justify the Sabathia trade. Now, in a pressure-free environment and playing first base (not the outfield) everyday, LaPorta will thrive.

I think the biggest area of improvement for LaPorta should be to learn how to hit during the day. His average is .291 (39-134) at night, and .221 (25-113) in day games. Wonder if he loves the nightlife a little too much?

3.  Moving on to a player whose progress isn’t going quite so well, let’s take a look at Michael Brantley. 

Brantley was a hugely pleasant surprise in his debut at the end of the 2009 season, but unfortunately, he hasn’t done much to impress since then. 

Are you surprised by how much Brantley has struggled this season? What do you think is the cause of his struggles? 

What do you think is Brantley’s biggest problem? Why isn’t he performing as well as he should be? Do you think he’ll come around eventually, or were we too quick to see great potential in him after his short stint of success at the end of 2009? Are there any areas of Brantley’s game at present that you ARE happy with?

Samantha Bunten: Michael Brantley is perhaps the one player who brings out the apologist in me. I love this guy, and I refuse to believe that the flashes of great play we’ve seen from him are just a fluke. 

To me, he simply just isn’t ready. Our outfield this season was supposed to be Choo, Sizemore, and Kearns. Injuries and a trade have instead resulted in an outfield combo of Choo (who also had a stint on the DL), Brantley, and (shudders) Trevor Crowe

Choo is a legitimate star. Crowe is a stopgap for Grady Sizemore while he recovers from injury. Brantley is the guy who should hold down the third spot in the future, if only he can get on base consistently. 

Brantley’s defense and baserunning are where they need to be already. He just needs to get his bat up to par. Ultimately I think he’ll be fine. He just needs more time to settle down, stop pressing, and adjust to major league pitching. 

Nino Colla: I’m not. He hasn’t received an extended period at the major league level. He’s had short stints so far. 

I did an article on Brantley’s problems and that is the conclusion I’ve come to: He’s putting too much pressure on himself and I think it has to do with the fact that he came up and he knew he was guaranteed. 

Now he’s back up here and he’s getting an extended look and the Indians have basically told him, this is your show. Austin Kearns is gone, Choo is the only staple in the outfield playing right now, and there is no reason for us to send you down or put you on the bench.

The one thing about Brantley that I dislike is his tendency to pull the ball. I think that is a result of the pressure he’s feeling. I think he’s pressured to not necessarily hit for home runs, but hit for power. That isn’t his game and it shouldn’t be his game. 

He should slap the ball the other way because 80 percent of the time. If he does, I’m pretty sure he’s going to find himself on second base, even if he only initially gets a single.

Lewie Pollis: Brantley’s current BABIP is .184. Using Chris Dutton’s xBABIP calculator, we should expect his BABIP to be .305. Doing some quick multiplication, that adds up to 12 extra hits, which brings his average up to .280, his OBP up to .338, and his SLG up to at least .364 (assuming all of the additional hits would be singles), plus it would increase his runs, steals, and RBI. 

Those aren’t great numbers and his power leaves something to be desired. But when you throw in his speed and defense and consider that he’s only 23, I think we have every reason to be optimistic.

The Coop: The simple answer is that Brantley is not ready. In a perfect situation where the entire Indians outfield was healthy for the whole season (including Grady Sizemore – remember him?), Brantley would not be on the 25-man roster. 

I believe he’s only there to fill a hole at this point. Who else are they going to use? Still, like with LaPorta, getting Brantley major league at-bats is the only way for him to improve. He can dominate minor league pitching, and he has had the right attitude despite his frequent bouncing from Cleveland to Columbus and back. 

Nevertheless, Brantley has tendencies and weaknesses which major league pitchers can obviously exploit. I’d definitely like to see him work more counts and draw more walks, but when a pitcher can get him to hit routine grounders by going right after him, why wouldn’t they? 

Ultimately, he is another guy that will benefit from playing everyday, and his glove is more than adequate. It’s going to take some time, but the upside is big.

4. One of the biggest question marks for the Indians’ rebuilding efforts, at least for the moment, is third base. 

Removing Jhonny Peralta from the equation can certainly be considered progress, but it’s pretty clear Andy Marte will never be the answer either. 

The Indians have two huge hopefuls at third in the minors (Jared Goedert and Lonnie Chisenhall) who are expected to fill the role nicely in the future. Who do you see being called up to take over the job first in 2011, Goedert or Chisenhall

Which one of them do you ultimately think will wind up with the job for the long haul? Also, given the strong possibility that neither is really ready to take on the job full time in 2011, do you think the Indians need to acquire some sort of stopgap this offseason for third base?

Samantha Bunten: Either way, this one is a win-win for the Tribe, because anything that is not Peralta or Marte at third is an automatic improvement, even if it’s an inanimate object. 

In the coming years, I think third base shakes out like this: Goedert gets there first, but Chisenhall ultimately winds up with the job. 

There’s no reason to rush Chisenhall. He isn’t ready, and probably won’t be ready at the beginning of 2011 either. That’s where Goedert comes in. He’s earned the first shot at the job, and I think he’ll fill the role nicely until Chisenhall is prepared to take his first crack at the majors. 

Ultimately I don’t think we want to see Goedert keep the job because his defense is, quite frankly, downright scary, and we’ve spent enough years enduring such horror courtesy of Peralta. I would like to see Chisenhall at third by the end of 2011, and perhaps Goedert can be moved to second.

Nino Colla: Jared Goedert is going to get the first crack, and might even earn a September call-up the way Jayson Nix and Luis Valbuena are playing at third defensively. 

The one knock on him is that his glove isn’t very good, but you have two guys there that are considered better defenders, even though third isn’t their original position, and even they are struggling.

I’ve been a fan of what Goedert’s done with the bat this season. Who hasn’t? The scary reality though is that he is just on a very hot streak in the minor leagues. 

Sure, he’s always had that potential with the bat and now that he’s healthy, he’s able to display it. But Lonnie Chisenhall has more staying power because his swing is more sound, he’s more of a pure hitter, and he’s got a much higher ceiling defensively.

Lewie Pollis: Looking at Goedert and Chisenhall, two things seem pretty clear. First, that Goedert will get first crack at the third base job. He’s pummeling Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .291/.372/.621 slashline and has rocked 18 homers in 57 games. Meanwhile, Chisenhall has a .266/.328/.437 line in Double-A, and has suffered through injuries this year. 

I think it’s pretty obvious that Goedert will reach the majors faster. A solid showing in a September call-up or Spring Training could cement him as the Tribe’s Opening Day third baseman. But Goedert isn’t the long-term solution. 

While his power surge didn’t come as a complete surprise (20 homers in 81 Single-A and High-A games in 2007), one has to wonder how sustainable his offensive surge is given that he posted an OPS of .709 at High-A and .657 at Double-A in 2008 and 2009, respectively. 

Perhaps more importantly, his defense is abysmal. That’s why Chisenhall will have the spot nailed down by midseason 2012.

The Coop: First of all, while Andy Marte is not the answer at third, please don’t discount his value to the organization as an emergency reliever. Teams with post-season aspirations should take note: need to get Nick Swisher out? You can, if the price is right. 

You hit on the most disappointing thing, which is that neither Chisenhall nor Goedert are ready. It seems that in the long term, Chisenhall will be the third baseman, so you have to wonder what the plan is for Goedert (second base?). 

This is where we all wonder aloud, Whatever happened to Wes Hodges? This was supposed to be his job, and you can’t help but think that if he would have panned out, we wouldn’t have had to deal with Jhonny Peralta for so long. 

Be that as it may, I’m rarely in favor of signing a washed-up has-been when the experience could be given to a younger player. I’m sure that Andy Marte will be given the job outright next year, but I’d really like to see Goedert get a few September at bats and make Marte earn the job next spring. (And, on the bright side, when Marte flops as usual, perhaps the Indians can get rid of him once and for all.)

5. Fun Question of the Week: The fans of any team involved in a major rebuilding effort are required to pay a lot of attention to the team’s minor league affiliates. 

How closely do you follow the Tribe’s minor league teams? How frequently do you attend minor league games? What’s your favorite minor league team/ballpark to go watch (it doesn’t have to be an Indians affiliate) and why?

Samantha Bunten: Indians fans, just like the fans of any team in the midst of a major rebuilding effort, are obligated to be on “Farm System Watch”. 

We follow our affiliates closely because, especially in the case of the Double-A and Triple-A teams, these guys could be on our roster tomorrow, and they’re also where all our hopes for the future lie. 

That’s not the only reason to attend a minor league game though. Minor league games are big on entertainment elements, very budget-friendly, and often give you an opportunity to meet or at least get close to players you would never have a chance to interact with at a major league ballpark. 

My favorite by far is the Aeros’ Canal Park, but I also think you can’t beat Single-A games for circus-like, off-field entertainment and how much bang you get for your buck. 

Nino Colla: I’m a very close follower of the minor leagues. Being in Akron, I follow the Aeros closely and attend multiple games during the season. When I was still in Youngstown, I’d see some Scrappers games, but not with the frequency that I’m at Canal Park. 

I haven’t been to many minor league ballparks, so Canal Park is probably my favorite. With this team, you almost have to follow the minor leagues so you have some sort of hope. 

Plus with a farm system that always seems to have players in it, why not? There’s always someone exciting to keep an eye on and hope that they are a part of the future some day.

Lewie Pollis: To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to the teams as a whole. The only MiLB stadium I’ve ever been to is the Aeros’ Canal Park, and I’ve been there only twice. I do, however, check in frequently on how individual prospects are performing and progressing.

The Coop: I probably don’t keep up with the Tribe’s lower affiliates as much as everyone else. The journey to the major leagues for most guys is long and grueling, and so many once-ballyhooed prospects never even make it (again, see Wes Hodges). So to that extent, I’m a little cynical and jaded. 

On the flip side, the purity and abundant hope of the minor leagues has a certain charm, as do the ballparks in which the games are played, so it’s definitely fun to take in a minor league contest from time to time. 

I think the minors tug on the emotions of what drew us all to baseball in the first place. For example: If Bull Durham was about a major league team, would it be as great a movie?

I have been to a few Washington Wild Things games (independent Frontier League), usually for a reason other than watching baseball, but I always seem to have a good time. (Of course, it might help that I’m only paying $2 for a beer and not $7.75 too!)

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