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Where does Michael Brantley rank among AL Central left fielders?

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After wrapping up the infield, we now shift our attention the outfield in the AL Central.

Dr. Smooth and that sweet swing of his
Dr. Smooth and that sweet swing of his
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

All offseason, there has been a lot of speculation on when Michael Brantley will return after his surgery.  Early reports had him missing the first month or two. Then an erroneous Peter Gammon's report had him missing almost two-thirds of the season. Now there are rumors he may be back close to Opening Day. Let's see what the projections tools have in mind for him and his AL Central compatriots.

Cleveland Indians

Brantley is one of the best players in all of baseball, not just in the AL Central, but it is still not known how well he will rebound from this injury to his non-throwing shoulder. After posting a 6.8 bWAR in 2014, he slumped down to a  3.4 bWAR in 2015. But all in all, he was still very good. As you can see below, ZIPS and Marcel both have him playing almost a full season, and if the Opening Day rumors are true, that could come to bear.

More likely than not, he will miss at least a month, and maybe have even more additional rest time throughout the season anyways. Rajai Davis will likely be the main backup in left although Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could play a role.

Down on the farm, it really is hard to project a left fielder, because most players shift there eventually. But the minor leaguer last year who had the best line while playing the majority of his games in left was Dorssys Paulino. He hit .272/.337/.418 between Single-A and High-A as a 20-year-old.

Michael Brantley

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

405

9

295

359

441

346

120

1.8

ZIPS

614

14

301

364

454

355

3.0

Marcel

566

15

303

362

469

Chicago White Sox

Returning for his second season on a three-year deal, is Melky Cabrera. After a fantastic season in Toronto in 2014, which landed him the deal, he slumped back just about league average in 2015 (3.1 bWAR to 1.4 bWAR). He will be 31 this season and should still be able to replicate his league average production. He will be backed up by a pair of former Tribe guys, J.B. Shuck and Jerry Sands.

The top left fielder in the system appears to be Jason Coats, who hit .276/.317/.446 between Double-A and Triple-A last year. He was the No. 28 player on the MLB Pipeline for the White Sox.

Melky Cabrera

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

610

14

283

334

420

327

105

0.9

ZIPS

596

11

281

325

403

316

1.0

Marcel

604

12

277

323

409

Detroit Tigers

After dealing Yoenis Cespedes away at the trade deadline last year, the Tigers were definitely in the market for another outfielder. So naturally, Mr. Ilitch opened up his fat wallet, yet again, and signed Justin Upton to a six-year deal worth $132.75M. Upton will be just 29 this year, so he should be worth the dough the first two seasons of this deal at least, after which he can opt out of his contract.

He was a 6.1 bWAR player in 2011 for the Diamondbacks, but hovered around 3.0 bWAR until his contract year with the Padres last year, when he posted a 4.4 bWAR. He should be good for at least a 3.0 bWAR this year, and could easily post another 4.5. Anthony Gose and Tyler Collins would get the first crack at being his backup. And even old friend Mike Aviles might play there (one can only hope Brad Ausmus does this).

The top prospect is Christin Stewart, who jumped three levels in 2015, going from Rookie to Low-A, to Class-A. He slashed .285/.372/.508 and is the No. 4 MLB Pipeline prospect.

Justin Upton

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

632

28

270

351

485

359

127

3.4

ZIPS

618

28

265

348

481

360

4.0

Marcel

574

24

260

338

462

Kansas City Royals

Heading into this offseason, the Royals were likely going to have to pony up some serious cash to get a left fielder. Longtime homegrown player Alex Gordon had filed for free agency and was looking for a massive paycheck. Not only is Gordon a pretty decent hitter, but is also a Gold Glove caliber outfielder. 2015 however, was his first "down" season where he finished below a 3.0 bWAR since 2010. Although that was injury driven as he missed a third of the season.

In the end, the Royals were able to sign him back, and on a fairly decent deal. He got a four-deal contract worth $72 million, heavily backloaded and a mutual option in 2020. I also think he'll put up another b4.5 WAR season this year. His backups will be Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando again.

The top prospect here looks to be Reymond Fuentes, who was No. 19 in MLB Pipeline. He hit .310/.364/.432 in Triple-A last year.

Alex Gordon

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

614

17

271

355

432

341

115

3.8

ZIPS

589

16

261

350

419

336

-

Marcel

475

14

264

344

424

Minnesota Twins

Returning for his second year in left for the Twins is Eddie Rosario. At the age of 23 last year, he finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .267/.289/.459 and he was worth 2.2 bWAR. A former top prospect by the Baseball Prospectus in 2012 and 2014, he will not be arbitration eligible until 2018.

The listed backups for Rosario are Miguel Sano, who start in right field, and top prospect Max Kepler. Although Kepler (No.  in MLB Pipeline) is more of a first basemen and right fielder by trade. Also in the system is Adam Brett Walker II who hit 239/309/498 (31 HR!) in AA last year and is now the #10 guy on MLB Pipeline.

Eddie Rosario

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

Steamer

536

13

258

292

412

302

88

1.0

ZIPS

525

13

256

287

415

308

1.0

Marcel

437

13

269

304

457

My take

Normally, this would be a two-man race between Brantley and Gordon. But with Brantley likely to miss some time, and the addition of Upton in Detroit, I think Brantley only finishes third in the division this year. I'll take Rosario to just outdo Cabrera for fourth.

I'd rank them as follows:

  1. Upton
  2. Gordon
  3. Brantley
  4. Rosario
  5. Cabrera

Please post your rankings in the comments.

Previous entries:

Third Base

Shortstop

Second Base

First Base

Catcher

Infield Summary