Thursday, February 25, 2010

Branyan / LaPorta / Brantley

Contrary to previous expectations, Russell Branyan is apparently going to be Cleveland's regular first baseman.  This not only significantly affects his forecast but also impacts both Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, both of whom are now in a competition for the job in left field.

First, where Branyan is concerned, I'm leaning towards a fairly big upgrade in the next edition of the forecasts, likely boosting him to around 130 games and 475 at bats.  If he gets that much playing time, we'll be looking at a forecast for 25-30 home runs and around 80 RBI.  He may not be as good as he looked last year with Seattle but he's definitely got unquestioned power.  A career .210 hitter against lefties, that's one reason why we can't take him to 500+ at bat territory as he's just not going to play every day no matter how dedicated the Indians are to giving him playing time.

As for LaPorta and Brantley, both forecasts are going to take a hit in the next edition and we'll be watching this situation throughout spring training.  I will now be very surprised if both players make the opening day roster, barring a spring injury to one of Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo or Travis Hafner.  If LaPorta wins the spring battle with Brantley, he's capable of hitting in the high .260s with 20-25 home runs and 85+ RBI over a full season.  If Brantley emerges as the winner, we don't expect him to match last year's strong big league debut average (after all, he hit only .267 at Triple-A last year in more than 450 at bats) but he could hold his own with an average around .260 and 30+ stolen bases if he ends up as a regular.  He doesn't project to hit for power at this stage.