The Astros have been one of the better teams the last few seasons because they make smart moves. They made another this off-season by signing outfielder Michael Brantley to a two-year, $32 million contract.
Injuries have pushed Brantley down draft boards in recent seasons. Brantley missed some time at the beginning of last season recovering from ankle surgery. Brantley played 137 games in 2015, 11 in 2016 and 90 in 2017. The 143 games he played last season were the most since he played 156 in 2014.
Brantley has an Average Draft Position (ADP) of 105.21 and is the 28th outfielder selected, according to fantrax.com. That’s a good price for a player that helps in all categories. He’s not dominant in any one category, but provides a high floor in each category.
Brantley, who turns 32 in May, batted .309 with 89 runs, 17 home runs, 76 RBIs and 12 stolen bases with an .832 OPS in 570 at-bats with the Indians last season. He’s an excellent contact hitter that rarely strikes out. He struck out 9.5 percent of the time last year. He doesn’t hit a lot of fly balls and won’t hit a lot of home runs, but he had a 24.7 percent line drive rate and a career-high 37.1 percent hard hit rate.
Brantley also provides a high average, which often gets undervalued in Fantasy. Since 2014, he has batted .327, .310, .299 and .309. Even when he played in 90 games in 2017, he was productive with a slash line of .299/.357/.444 with 47 runs, nine home runs, 52 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 338 at-bats.
Brantley moves to one of the better offenses in baseball. He potentially could bat fifth with George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in front of him. Brantley isn’t going to get the buzz of other free agents, but he’s a sneaky source of value.
Brantley can be drafted in most leagues as your third outfielder, often in the ninth to tenth round of 15-team leagues. Since he’s not elite in any category, he doesn’t stand out. These are the players that provide a nice foundation for a team.
Brantley will hit for average and can get double-digit steals. With steals becoming scarce, don’t dismiss any player that can get 10-15 steals. They add up and it prevents you from reaching on a player that contributes mainly in steals and is deficient in other categories.
The key for Brantley is health. It was a good sign he was able to play 143 games last year and the counting stats will be good in the Astros lineup. While Brantley will mostly play leftfield, there’s some talk he could see some time at first base and designated hitter and depending on league qualifications, he could have eligibility at another position.