Commentary

Michael Brantley grew up in the game

Indians' OF prospect spent much of his youth in Mariners' clubhouse beside his father

Originally Published: April 2, 2010
By Jorge Arangure Jr. | ESPN The Magazine

In four major league seasons, Seattle Mariners outfielder Mickey Brantley compiled a .259 batting average, 32 career home runs and 125 total RBIs. Most importantly though, Mickey Brantley often brought his young son Michael into the Seattle clubhouse, where he'd run around and meet players such as Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds and Ken Griffey Jr., who was then just a kid himself. There's nothing quite as valuable as a major league playing education.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brantley
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesMichael Brantley batted .313 in 28 games as a September call-up for the Indians last season.

Subsequently, Michael Brantley became a pretty good player in his own right and was eventually drafted out of high school -- taken in the seventh round in 2005 by the Milwaukee Brewers.

While a minor leaguer, Michael Brantley was known as Mickey's son, and then as one of the players the Cleveland Indians acquired from the Brewers in the much-dissected CC Sabathia trade in 2008. That year Sabathia helped the Brewers reach the playoffs. Just what exactly Michael Brantley would do for the Indians was not yet known.

Now 22, Michael Brantley is ready to establish his own identity with the Indians. In five minor league seasons, Brantley has posted a .300/.387/.369 line. As a September call-up with Cleveland last year, Brantley hit .313/.358/.348, which encouraged the Indians to have Brantley compete for a starting job this spring.

Cleveland's signing of Russell Branyan had threatened to bump Brantley back to the minors. But Branyan's troublesome back, which is likely to send him to the disabled list to start the year, means that Brantley once again is a favorite to start the year with Cleveland.

This offseason, Brantley -- knowing that his career minor league .369 slugging percentage and his 12 career minor league home runs wouldn't cut it in the majors -- decided to bolster his training regimen. Brantley lifted more weights than he had ever lifted before and he says he's in the best shape of his career.

As Griffey -- who reunited with Brantley during a game this spring -- can attest, Brantley is not so little anymore.

Jorge Arangure Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.