The Houston Astros will look to go back-to-back in 2023, and it appears that the defending champs are bringing back a familiar face. Outfielder Michael Brantley has reportedly agreed to return to Houston on a one-year deal. Brantley missed most of 2022 due to a shoulder injury, but should provide value and depth to the Astros once more.
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A Look at Brantley
Michael Brantley is set to re-join the Houston Astros for a fifth season. A five-time All-Star, Brantley developed into one of the game’s premier contact hitters with the Cleveland Indians in the early 2010’s. A career .298 hitter entering 2023, Brantley logged at least a .265 batting average in each of the eight seasons in which the 35-year-old accumulated at least 400 plate appearances. Brantley has never been a power hitter, but the outfielder’s simple approach at the plate allows him to keep his hands in on the ball, in order to drive it. That approach has resulted into an elite ability to make solid, consistent contact.
Since joining the Astros, Brantley has hit .306/.367/.464 over four seasons. The returning Astros outfielder is consistent in terms of on-base production, a reason as to why Brantley has been a fixture at the top of Houston’s lineup. While Brantley doesn’t walk a whole lot, his abilities to stay patient and rack up hits makes up for that.
Health will be key for Brantley going forward. The 35-year-old spent a good amount of time on IL over the past three seasons, including last year. Brantley missed most of 2022 due to a shoulder injury. But in those 64 games, Brantley did hit .288/.370/.416 with 20 extra base hits and had the fifth-best Whiff% (min. 250 PA) among MLB hitters. Houston will look for similar production from Brantley in 2023.
What it Means
Entering the offseason, Houston’s list of outfielders included Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers, Chas McCormick, and utilityman Mauricio Dubon. With Tucker in right and a combination of Meyers and McCormick in center, it made sense for the Astros to target a left fielder to take some pressure off of slugger Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez did get more time in left in 2022 as compared to 2021, but is far from an elite fielder at the position. Brantley isn’t a terrific fielder either, but should be able to split time between left and DH with Alvarez.
Houston brings back an important piece to the Astros’ offense over the past four seasons. Brantley does have an injury history, and the 35-year old did miss all of the World Series champions’ second half and playoff games due to shoulder surgery. On a one-year deal, though, the Astros carry little risk and much to gain. The five-time All-Star is still among the best in the game in making consistent contact. Provided Brantley can log 120-130 games in 2023, it’s a wise decision.