Fantasy Baseball Analysis: Who’s the Next Michael Brantley?

Updated: January 19, 2015

Who's The Next boxThe first in our 2015 “Who’s the Next” series examines whether Adam Eaton (above) compares to one of last season’s biggest breakouts – Michael Brantley.

We had Brantley ranked No. 63 in the outfield in our preseason rankings with a projected line of .283 average, 69 runs, 10 homers, 72 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. The Indians outfielder put together a tremendous season from start to finish, concluding with a .327-94-20-97-23 line that made him the second-ranked outfielder and No. 4 overall on ESPN’s player rater.

Brantley was coming off his best season in 2013 with a solid .284-66-10-73-17 line, but that made him more of a reserve in a deep mixed league. Coming out of the minors, it had appeared Brantley would be more of a base stealer than a power hitter, as he had 14 homers and 85 steals in 289 games between Double- and Triple-A.

His dad Mickey Brantley had shown a little more power in the late-1980s with the Mariners, hitting 29 homers over 992 plate appearances in 1987-88 despite being just 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. Michael Brantley is listed as 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, so there was reason to believe that he could build on his 10-homer 2013 in his age-26 season last year.

The Indians gave Brantley a four-year, $25 million contract going into last year, which seemed like a stretch at the time since he had been merely a serviceable outfielder, including being a below-average defensive player.

The part of his skill set that his supporters would have been pointing to was that he had always had tremendous on-base skills, compiling a .387 OBP in the minors and in the majors had peaked at .348 in 2012 with the Indians.

This brings us to Eaton.

The White Sox outfielder was also an on-base machine in the minors, compiling a .429 OBP over 349 games.

Eaton has accomplished less in the majors than Brantley, but he is coming off a solid 2014 in his age-25 season with a .300-76-1-35-15 line that featured a .362 OBP. He had five homers in his previous 380 MLB plate appearances and had seven homers in Triple-A in 2012, so he has shown some pop before.

Eaton is just 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, so it may be a bit much to expect any kind of power breakout like Brantley had last season, but he does play his home games in U.S. Cellular Field, a favorable park for home runs.

We have Eaton projected to put up a .283-80-6-48-20 line, very similar to what we expecting from Brantley last season. If Eaton breaks out this season, we could see a .300-100-12-60-25 line.

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