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Michael Brantley fought through injuries to turn in another solid season in 2015

Unfortunately, it does not look like the injuries are done quite yet...

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Although he played in 115 games on paper, the amount of games that Michael Brantley played in 2015 while feeling close to 100% were probably much, much less than that. A back injury kept him out for a large part of April, and a shoulder injury cut his season short by a couple weeks at the end. However, with all that said, he still makes our Most Valuable Player list at number five, because he was that damn good.

Brantley could not quite match the 20 home runs or .506 slugging percentage that he put up in his MVP-caliber 2014 season, but 2015 was nothing to scoff at. In 596 plate appearances, he still tallied 15 home runs while slugging .480 and getting on base at a .379 clip. All of this accounts for a 135 wRC+, the second highest of his career.

A big reason that Brantley was able to keep his production up while fighting off injuries was his absurdly good approach at the plate. Brantley finished 2015 with the lowest swinging strike percentage in the American League at 3.1%, the highest contact rate at 92.6% (a whole 3% higher than second place Jose Altuve), and the lowest strikeout rate at 8.6%. Bottom line is: You could try all you want, but you were not going to strike Michael Brantley out in 2015. He was patient, he was saw the ball well, and when he did swing, he was putting it where he wanted it for the most part. In mid-July, he even went for a streak of nine straight games where he did not strike out at all.

Brantley’s walk rate in 2015 reached double digits for the first time of his career, hitting 10.1% by season’s end. Given how well he makes contact, that walk rate will never get much higher, which is perfectly fine. The real test will be when his ability to make contact weakens. Will he begin to be more selective with what he swings at, or will he start making a lot of ugly swings?

If you want clutchness in your MVP races, then Brantley had that as well. Particularly when the Indians were surging in August into September, Brantley shined for the Tribe (before his September numbers fell off a cliff post-injury). He punctuated the run with a two-home run game against the Detroit Tigers on September 10.

Despite the great offensive year, Brantley did not take home a Silver Slugger award. Because of how the awards are set up, Brantley lost out in the "outfield" category to Nelson Cruz, Mike Trout, and J.D. Martinez. If the award was divided up into right field, center field, and left field, Brantley would be an easy win among left fielders, but it is what is. Hey, he did win Man of the Year from Cleveland BBWAA members, so there's that.

Unfortunately, the good news ends there. On November 9, Brantley underwent surgery on his torn labrum that will sideline him for at least 5-6 months. The best case scenario is he will be back and ready for game action (read: not ready to play in a big league game yet) sometime in late April. The surgery comes after a September 22 injury on a bad dive attempt against the Minnesota Twins. Brantley was put through a two-week rehab program, but ultimately needed the surgery more than a month later. Get well soon, Smooth.

Month G PA H 1B 2B 3B HR SB AVG OBP SLG wRC+ fWAR
April 15 63 20 13 7 0 0 1 .339 .381 .458 133 -
May 28 132 31 17 10 0 4 6 .282 .379 .482 134 -
June 24 100 27 21 6 0 0 2 .297 .360 .363 96 -
July 26 113 29 18 7 0 4 2 .299 .389 .495 146 -
August 24 108 39 26 10 0 3 3 .406 .463 .604 192 -
September 20 80 18 9 5 0 4 1 .237 .275 .461 99 -
Total 137 596 164 104 45 0 15 15 .310 .379 .480 135 3.8