7. Can Brantley and Kipnis Recapture the Magic
Last season both Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley battled injuries and played just 90 a piece. While many people think these two players, who are now on the wrong side of 30, seem to be done as valuable players, I’m here to tell that is just not true.
For Jason Kipnis, the key to a productive season seems to be health. In seasons where he plays more than 140 games, he has a slash line of .279/.352/.436 with a 4.6 WAR, compared to a slash line of .237/.301/.362 and a WAR of 0.5 in seasons where less than 140 games. Good news for Indians fans and Kipnis, he’s completely healthy heading into the season. Last season he was rehabbing all spring and rushed back too fast, which only caused him to not be ready and led to more injuries. He’s healthy this year, which means big things.
As for Brantley, we’re entering the third straight season where he has come into spring rehabbing an injury. On the bright side, it was not a shoulder injury. Brantley could have probably made the opening day roster, but the Indians are playing it safe and he’ll start on the 10-day DL. When healthy last season, Brantley was pretty effective. He had a slash line of .299/.357/.444 with a 2.1 WAR in 90 games (3.8 WAR over a full season). He’ll likely never be the player he was from 2014-15 (10.1 WAR), but if he is the player from 2013-14 (6.0 WAR), he still be a highly valuable player. With his low maintenance swing, it won’t take long for him to get up to speed. And he’s proven he can still produce even in injury-plagued seasons.