Michael Brantley isn’t a power hitter. He isn’t a base stealer.
But what he is, is a professional hitter.
And right now, he’s in orbit.
The Houston Astros have gone 4-2 over their last six games, taking road series from the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. Houston scored 45 runs in those games, and while the entire Astros offense has been blasting off, Brantley has been in another stratosphere with it.
The 34-year old veteran outfielder is on pace to have his best season since 2017 and has a solid chance of being named to the American League All-Star team for the fourth time in five seasons when lineups are announced.
All Michael Brantley does is hit missiles all around the field with a contract-driven old-school approach. He's .300 walking in shorts and shades#mlbbrohttps://t.co/JH774jUr2w
Brantley’s .337 average leads Houston and is second only to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. among American League hitters.
In five games in the month of June, he’s had three games with at least three hits, and two four-hit performances, producing a .600 average. His OPS is an astronomical 1.502, with five of his 12 hits going for extra bases.
Through 46 games, the exact number he played last season, Brantley has already bettered nearly every statistic he posted in 2020. Houston manager Dusty Baker has done a fantastic job of providing enough rest for Brantley to remain impactful, even without being available every day.
At times, Injuries have been as much a part of Brantley’s career as has his steady hitting. It’s part of why he was available in 2018 after 10 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, where he was an All-Star in 2017 and hit .295.
Brantley returned from the 10-day injured list on June 8 after dealing with tightness in his hamstring and has been able to pick up right where he left off.
When healthy, Brantley has been one of the most consistent hitters in all of baseball this season. He’s hit safely in 35 of 46 games and has yet to go consecutive games without a hit. In fact he has more multi-hit games (16) than hitless ones (11).
Brantley trails only Cedric Mullins in percentage of games with at least one hit and has the highest percentage of multi-hit games among the top five hitters in the American League.
He’s also in the top ten in OBP and top 20 in slugging and OPS.
He’s proven that with six seasons with at least 150 hits, and his career .298 batting average puts him alongside such greats as Cecil Cooper, Jim Rice, Barry Bonds, and Mookie Betts in the record book.
As Houston continues its pursuit of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West standings, consistency is key; and there is no one on the Astros roster any more consistent than Michael Brantley.
When it comes to making a good first impression, Chicago White Sox outfielder Brian Goodwin does that well.
The 30-year-old gave White Sox fans a treat in his debut on June 12. The White Sox bats came alive that day against the Detroit Tigers in a 15-2 win and Goodwin, a six-year veteran, made sure to join in on the fun.
He went 2-for-5 at the plate, hitting his first home run of the season and had five RBI. Goodwin became the 38th White Sox player to hit a home run in their debut.
“It felt good, first game, give the fans and teammates something to see,” Goodwin told the Chicago Sun-Times after his performance.
That is the production Goodwin needed to have the opportunity to make an impact for a team who has a chance to play for a World Series title this season. This surging White Sox team will benefit from having a player like Goodwin, who can be productive at the plate and in the field.
The start of the 2021 season has been a rollercoaster for Goodwin. He signed a minor league contract in February with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Our MLBbro received an invite to spring training in hopes of making the Opening Day roster. The talent-strapped Pirates decided to release Goodwin on May 3rd. At that time the veteran outfielder wondered when he would next play baseball.
But, that didn’t last too long. A day later, he signed a minor-league contract with the White Sox and now he’s back in the majors.
“I wasn’t too happy about it, but it helped me keep that chip on my shoulder,” Goodwin said. “Signed here in May, and I’m still [ticked] off. I’m going to take it out on everybody else with how I play.”
After spending time in Triple-A Charlotte, Goodwin got the call up after Nick Madrigal went on the 60-day Injured List.
Before joining the White Sox, Goodwin played with four other MLB teams. His last stint in the league was in 2020 with the LA Angels and Cincinnati Reds. During the COVID shortened season he appeared in 30 games with the Angels and batted .242 with 17 RBI. The Angels traded him to the Reds and he finished the season playing in 20 games and batted .163.
Goodwin started his career with the Washington Nationals, who drafted him in 2011 out of the University of North Carolina.
He made his debut with the Nationals in 2016, appearing in 22 games and finished with an impressive .286 batting average. The next season, Goodwin appeared in 74 games, finishing with a .251 average. This brother quickly made an impact in his first few years.
In 2018 he spent the first half of the season with the Nationals and was then traded to the Kansas City Royals. The Royals released Goodwin in March of 2019 and he was picked up by the Angels, where he had a career season.
So as you can see, Goodwin has bounced around during his time in the Majors. He has a career .250 batting average and he’ll continue to look to make an impact while he’s on the field.
Normally, a player starting his 15th season in the big leagues is considered on the decline.
But for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Justin Upton, a recent move up the batting order has served as a reminder of why he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft.
With his team struggling to stay in the playoff race without Mike Trout, Angels manager Joe Maddon decided to make a drastic move to spark his lethargic ball club. His decision was to move the power-hitting, four-time All-Star Upton into the leadoff spot.
With Upton now being protected by budding superstar Shohei Ohtani in the lineup, Justin has looked a lot like the three-time Silver Slugger winner the Angels traded for back in 2017.
Over his last 15 games, Justin has hit six bombs and driven in 11 while slashing an impressive .309/.424/.727. This offensive explosion from Upton is much needed with Trout still out with a calf injury, and his manager knows it.
“These guys have really come up big, and J-Up, even though he had just the one hit (a leadoff HR), you put up a point on the first swing and you can see what that does to the pitcher,” said Maddon to mlb.com during the start of Upton’s hot streak. “ He pitched relatively well after that, but give up five[runs in the first]. So again, J-up is doing his job. He got us going.”
The decision to move Upton has paid off significantly, as the Angels have won seven of their last ten ballgames. If Upton is able to continue his hot hitting, he may be rewarded with his fifth trip to the All-Star Game.
-11-5 on over 1 in L16 & at least 1 in 14 of 16 w/6 HR & 5 2B -Leading off for visiting team to maximize opps, decent matchup & AZ bullpen also not good -Small plus odds w/push chance – we take it pic.twitter.com/o46y06pend
“Right now, he’s at 14 home runs and 29 RBI on the year,” writes Evan Desani of halohangout.com. “If he continues to hit at the rate he has in these past 15 games, he’ll be at 25 home runs and 41 RBI by the time of the [All-Star] game.”
Numbers that impressive would surely be enough for an All-Star nod. But even without that recognition, Justin Upton’s success is important for the continued growth of the game in the Black community. Something that the Upton family has contributed to in historic fashion throughout the years.
Justin and his older brother, Melvin “B.J.” Upton, are the only two brothers in MLB history to be selected first and second overall in the modern draft era (albeit two different drafts).
The Upton’s are also the first brother duo to make it into the 20-20 club(20 home runs and 20 stolen bases). The due\o have even managed to play together in the same outfield twice as members to the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
B.J. is no longer in the league, but his younger brother Justin has certainly carried the torch in his absence.
Upton’s awakening couldn’t have come at a better time, not only for the Angels but for Black fans around the country.
If slow and steady wins the race, then George Springer looks like the surefire champion.
In his first year with the Toronto Blue Jays, the former World Series MVP is fresh off of signing a six-year, $150-million contract. But so far he has only played in four games this season, and the Blue Jays are proceeding with caution.
The reason? A nagging right quad injury.
If Blue Jays’ fans think it’s difficult to patiently wait for Springer’s healthy return, they aren’t alone.
Last week Springer confirmed that the process has been hard for him, too. After all, it’s not like Springer has avoided taking the field. After the quad injury kept him out for most of April, Springer came out swinging with two home runs in the Blue Jays win against the Atlanta Braves. The following day, Springer made three plate appearances against the Braves before feeling fatigued in that same right quad. Fans haven’t seen him play since.
George Springer (quad): “This isn’t easy on me. I may be smiling and laughing during BP, but this is hard on me. I want to be out there. I hate being hurt.”
An MRI revealed that Springer had aggravated his right quad once again. From that point on there’s been a seemingly large question mark surrounding the status of Springer.
From the outside looking in, his quad injury was never anything dramatic. Upon being removed from the May 2, game against the Braves, he did not have to be carried off of the field. He never screamed in pain. Matter of fact, the word that manager Charlie Montoyo used to describe the injury was “fatigue.”
Despite the occasional bits and pieces from the Blue Jays’ organization regarding Springer’s injury, information on the status of Springer has been vague, and that did not change when Montoyo took the podium again last week.
When asked about Springer’s health, Montoyo confirmed that Springer had been catching some fly balls and throwing to the bases. He proudly announced that last week had been the best that Springer had felt. In his own words, Montoyo described the update as “good news.”
However, he remained quick to shut down any potential idea that Springer is ready to be back on the field at the moment. He described the current status of Springer’s injury as “day-to-day.” Earlier this week, Montoyo announced that Springer’s progress is continuing, and he will begin the rehab process soon.
So what can fans expect from Springer when he does finally return? Fortunately, the bits and pieces that we’ve seen from him since the injury show that he is indeed still very much capable of carrying out the fundamentals, despite his injury’s persistence. However, the fact of the matter is that with a nagging hamstring injury like his, we shouldn’t be surprised if he has a few setbacks before he is back to his normal self.
If the Blue Jays want him to be a healthy, long-term member of this team, Springer’s time spent nursing his injury should be seen as an investment above all. The last thing the organization needs is more harm done than good, especially when dealing with a three-time MLB All-Star.