Posted by Steve
Lost in the hullabaloo of the past couple weeks is the final piece of the CC Sabathia trade. Cleveland got to pick the player to be named later in the deal because the Brewers made the playoffs (if the Brewers has missed the postseason, the Brewers would have chosen the player to go). Anyway, the choice came down to outfielder Michael Brantley and second baseman/third baseman Taylor Green, and the Indians chose Brantley. I like both of these players quite a bit, so losing either one hurts. However, it was fairly well known that one of them would be gone, and I probably prefer to keep Green.
Brantley is a very intriguing player, mainly because of his elite level of plate discipline and good speed. He put up an offensive line of .319/.395/.398 at AA Huntsville in 2008. Looking at that line along with his speed, you’re probably thinking what I am: Brantley would have been a great candidate to groom as a leadoff hitter. To compare, Green hit .289/.382/.443 at high A Brevard County in ’08.
As the numbers might indicate, the report on Brantley is he is a good contact hitter with excellent plate discipline, but has not yet developed the power you look for in a starting MLB outfielder.
It also should be noted that Brantley is a few months older and was already at a higher level than Green in 2008. Green displayed more power and similar plate discipline, but he has yet to make the big jump from high A to AA that Brantley has. Though reports say Green has good speed, it’s not as good as Brantley’s—and Green isn’t the base-stealing threat that Brantley is. Another plus (but a wash nonetheless) is both players bat left-handed.
It is also interesting to note both players were injured in the second half, which was when Cleveland was to be scouting them heavily. Green didn’t see time at second this year before he went down. Cleveland was interested in him at second but never got to see him there, which may be a reason they went with Brantley.
Like I said, I like both of these players a lot, and it hurts to lose one—particularly at a time when the Major League team is has such poor plate discipline. There are a couple reasons I prefer Green at this point. One is power. Green certainly doesn’t have off-the-charts power, but he has a respectable 30 homers in 1,036 professional ABs and a career slugging percentage of .442. On the other hand, Brantley has six home runs in 1,396 Abs and a career slugging percentage of .372.
Of course, both players are young, and power can still show up after the age of 21, but the fact is Brantley has not yet shown enough power. Brantley, in all likelihood, will be unable to sustain an elite OBP in the majors if he does not develop power. Major league pitchers will be much more willing to throw him strikes if he can’t hit the ball out of the park, and he won’t be able to take as many walks.
In a debate at brewerfan, some pointed to Craig Counsell to debunk this idea. After all, Counsell can’t hit a lick, but he’s still able to take walks. First of all, Counsell is much more an exception than he is a rule. Second of all, even Counsell experienced the same difficulties I am predicting for Brantley (if Brantley doesn’t develop more power). Craiggers had an OBP of .384 in his minor league career, but his career OBP in the Majors is just .343.
The other reason I don’t mind losing Brantley is the position he plays. In 2008 he played 62 games in center, 21 in left and 21 at first base. From what I’ve heard, Brantley is not a lock to stick at center field. If he can’t play center, his value decreases tremendously; he’d be very light-hitting for a corner outfielder.
Another factor related to his position is the other players the Brewers currently have in their organization. Ryan Braun is going to be in the Brewers outfield through 2015. It seems Corey Hart could be here long term, although that is not as clear as it seemed a few months ago. The jury is still out on Mat Gamel at third base. If he’s unable to stick at third, he’ll either have to move to first base or the outfield. Another thing I’ll just briefly mention for now is the possibility of moving Rickie Weeks to center field (much more coming on this idea in a later post). After that, the Brewers still have two more promising outfielders moving up the minor leagues: Cole Gillespie and Lorenzo Cain. Gillespie is a corner outfielder who had an .858 OPS at AA and has an outside shot at seeing some time in Milwaukee next season. Cain hasn’t quite had the numbers of Gillespie but is a couple years younger, can play all three outfield positions and has been praised for his tools. Both are in the picture as MLB players and possible starters in the future.
On the flip side, not much about the future of the Brewers’ infield is set. The only position we know is solid is shortstop, as they have two pretty good ones in Hardy and Escobar. Third, second and first are all uncertain at this point.
Making a long story short, the organization has more of a need for a good infielder than a good outfielder. I realize I am always touting the best player regardless of position, but since Brantley and Green seem fairly comparable, positional need is perfectly fine as a tiebreaker.