Michael Brantley’s Complicated Right Shoulder
Michael Brantley, the 29-year-old outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, has been working his way back from recurrent right shoulder injuries that have temporarily derailed his once-promising career. Brantley, a left-handed hitter, was an All-Star in 2014 posting a 6.0 WAR season, hitting .327, impressing with 20 HRs, 20 SBs with a wRC+ of 151 (average MLB wRC+ is 100). Those are top 10 outfielder numbers. Unfortunately Brantley injured his right shoulder diving for a ball on September 22, 2015. He was diagnosed with a tear of the labrum of his right shoulder and required extensive surgery in November 2015. Typical RTP from a labrum repair surgery is about 9 months. His rehab was going well until ramping up in spring training of 2016 when he suffered a setback, and then had a surgery for scar tissue removal from right biceps tendon in March 2016.
Brantley experienced fatigue and recurrent right shoulder pain during the 2016 season that limited him to just 11 games. The good news was that his previously repaired labrum was intact and the majority of his shoulder looked good, but the Cleveland Indian team physicians determined that his pain was secondary to chronic biceps tendinitis. So in August 2016, he again went under the knife, this time to repair for chronic biceps tendinitis in his right shoulder, with a full recovery expected in four months. Michael has been progressing well in his recovery, reportedly started to swing a bat in late December 2016, then steadily increased the volume and intensity of his swings. On February 24, he took normal batting practice indoors for the first time since his August surgery.
So why is the shoulder so important in a baseball player? The shoulder is pivotal in every aspect of baseball – hitting, throwing, fielding, even generating power when running. Tearing a labrum significantly zaps power, throwing power and accuracy, and the athlete often deals with recurrent pain that is hard to treat, often translating to a less-than-effective ballplayer. Will he ever return to the top 20-fantasy player he was in 2014? Only time will tell, but he appears to be on track to return in the next 4-6 weeks. It is unclear if he will ever return to his once promising status, but he can help the defending American League Championships try to return to the World Series.
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Fantasy tip: Brantley is currently being drafted as the 49th OF off the board, with an ADP of 184. Shoulder injuries are challenging to return from, but Brantley is still young enough and talented enough to make a solid comeback. Draft Brantley as your OF4-5 with significant upside, but temper your expectations.
November 2015 – Labrum surgery of right shoulder
March 2016 – Scar tissue removal from right biceps tendon
August 2016 – Chronic biceps tendinitis of right shoulder