Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Matt LaPorta VS Michael Brantley

posted by Jon Williams

Photo from fOTOGLIF

If he had managed to stay healthy Matt LaPorta would probably be entrenched either in left field or at first base. In fact until the Indians signed Russell Branyan, LaPorta was the consensus starter at first base and Michael Brantley looked like a near lock to man left field for the tribe. Most writers are now speculating that Brantley and LaPorta are now competing for just one spot on the major league roster, with the most likely scenario being LaPorta in left field and Brantley in triple-A. I am not as positive that is the case, though I have no inside information. But applying some logic this is what I'm thinking:

1. Both Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta seem to be in Cleveland's long term plans. So delaying either player from establishing himself in the majors seems counter-productive.

2. Russell Branyan has some injury concerns which may limit his playing time. Enough concerns that Brantley or LaPorta could potentially receive enough at-bats to justify a spot on the major league roster ahead of Trevor Crowe or Austin Kearns.

3. Based on the most recent results and scouting reports, the trio of Brantley, LaPorta, and Branyan is bound to be more productive than Kearns, Crowe and just one of the younger players.

4. LaPorta is coming off hip and toe surgeries and there exists the possibility that Brantley will outplay him this spring. In that case, would not the Indians send LaPorta to the minors instead of Brantley?
I was somewhat surprised to learn that (at least in the majors in admittedly small sample sizes) Matt LaPorta was the better defensive player. Brantley had a UZR/150 of 5.8 in left field, and -49.3 in center field. LaPorta had a 8.9 UZR/150 at first base, and -8.7 in left field but 15.4 in right field. It probably isn't much of a consideration for the Indians at this point but I think its interesting at least.

Matt LaPorta appears to have solid but unspectacular power. He combines what I would call 20-30 homerun power with solid but again unspectacular plate discipline. I would place his ceiling as a player somewhere around Nick Markakis and his floor at Matt Diaz. From that you can infer that I believe he is a solid major league player, the question is only how good can he be.

From Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta speaking of Matt LaPorta:

"He's going to get 500 at-bats, if he's healthy," manager Manny Acta said. "That's what's important here."

Michael Brantley has had solid walk rates and good contact numbers throughout his minor league career. He does not hit for power but has very good speed on the bases and is capable of stealing 30-40 bases in a season. Cleveland doesn't appear to be very high on him but he deserves more respect. Especially when the alternative is Austin Kearns.

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