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Is it outfielder Michael Brantley 2.0?

15:32 UTC

For the first two weeks of the 2022 MLB season, Steven Kwan was the talk of Major League Baseball – and for good reason.

He set a Major League record by reaching base 19 times in his first six games. He is the author of the longest streak without a swing or miss since 2000. In the first two weeks of the season, he led all qualified hitters with a microscopic strikeout rate of 3.4.

Two months after introducing himself to the baseball world, Kwan began leading the Guardians, where he provided the team with much-needed offensive consistency at the top end while learning about Major League pitching on the fly.

Sound familiar? It should.

With a profile built around contact and speed, the Kwan’s electric debut was eerily similar to the debut of another former Cleveland outfield prospect: Michael Brantley.

Here are Brantley’s stats over the first 100 games of his career: ).264/.313/.333, 108 hits, 3 HR, 33 RBIs, 13 2B, 3 3B, 14 SB, 80 OPS+, 78 WRC+, 12.8 strikeout rate

And here are Kwan’s stats through his first 100 games, a plateau he crossed over the weekend last in Toronto: .296/.373 / .391, 109 hits, 3 HR, 29 RBIs, 18 2B, 4 3B, 11 SB, 121 OPS+, 122 WRC+, 8.8 strikeout rate

It’s true: in the first 100 games of his career, Kwan has got off to a better start than anyone else who went on to become one of the best clean hitters in baseball.

It doesn’t end there either r, as Kwan also bears strong similarities to the current version of Brantley.

While Brantley has more power and hits the ball harder (more on that later), they both boast elite plate and swing discipline. The only difference is that one player is 35 with 11 years of Major League service under his belt, and the other is a 24-year-old rookie who wasn’t a top prospect for the season.

Even Kwan couldn’t believe the similarities.

The day before Kwan and his Guardians teammates left for the All-Star break, the rookie outfielder of Cleveland received data showing how his stats compared to Brantley’s at the same time.

In this time, Kwan played in 78 games, batting .279 with 77 hits , 23 RBIs and a tiny 8.5 strikeout rate. During the same early career span, Brantley batted .255 with 80 hits, 30 RBIs and a 13.6 strikeout rate.

“Oh man, I didn’t know that,” Kwan said when he was presented with the statistics. “It’s super humbling. It’s really cool to see that I’m on the right track so far.”

When Kwan was drafted by Cleveland in the summer of 2018, Brantley was already one of the players Kwan looked up to at the Major League level. Brantley was in the middle of an All-Star season and finished the year batting .309 with 17 home runs and 76 RBIs in his senior year at Cleveland.

“I don’t know if I admired him more because he was in the organization, it was more just because he was a very good player” , Kwan said. “It was really cool to watch him, especially since he was a contact guy who developed some power later on.”

Brantley’s and Kwan’s early Major League careers were also similar in that no one really knew what to expect of them when they were promoted. When Brantley was first called up in September 2009, it was so he could audition for the Major League on a Cleveland team that was going nowhere.

Following a 32-game stint in the Major League in 2009, Brantley spent most of the first three months of 2010 in Triple-A before being called up in July, where he quickly established himself as Cleveland’s leading hitter.

“For me personally, it was about getting comfortable and understanding that I belonged in the big leagues,” Brantley said of the start of his career. “Once you’re a little more confident and understand what’s going on, you can let your game grow and let your game grow.”

This year, Kwan broke camp with the Guardians, a decision that came largely from Cleveland trying to work by assessing his overabundance of Major League-ready prospects. And although Kwan was not demoted this year, he struggled in May before bouncing back in June and becoming the Guardians’ first full-time hitter.

“I didn’t expect to be at the top of the roster – or even to be with the team halfway through” , Kwan said earlier this year. “It’s been quite a whirlwind.”

One area where Kwan has a clear advantage over rookie Brantley is defense. Kwan has mostly played left field this year, where he’s worth eight strikeouts above average, which is tied for the lead in the Major League. And while Brantley has developed into a solid left fielder (ask any Astros fan about his incredible double play in the 2019 ALCS), he was worth -1.5 dWAR over his first 100 games while playing mostly on the center field.

Defense isn’t the only part of Brantley’s game that’s is developed with age. Despite hitting just three home runs in his first 100 games (and only homering 16 in his first four major league seasons), Brantley added some thunder to hit the bat in 2014, smashing 20 homers and 45 doubles en route to a career. -High hit percentage of .506. Over the next eight seasons, Brantley hit 81 home runs and hit a .463 hitting percentage, a far cry from when he needed 42 games to hit his first Major League home run.

On July 8, 2010, Brantley crashed a 92 mph fastball into the seats from right field at Tropicana Field for his first long pitch. Although the circuit covered a considerable distance (399 feet), this was more due to Brantley’s timing and the location of the terrain than his power

Nearly 12 years after Brantley’s first trip around bases, Kwan recorded his first home run in a game against the Blue Jays in May. The pitch he sent? A 95mph fastball from Jose Berrios that was up and inside – a close-to-the-pitch replica that Brantley hit.

According to Brantley, his gradual rise to power is part of a plan that he developed with his father.

“My father (the former player of MLB and batting coach Mickey Brantley) always preached to me that first you have to learn to hit, then you can learn to hit for power. I bought into that at a young age and learned to hitting the ball in the middle. Even when I was 19 or 20, I never really worked on hitting the ball in the batting cage or during batting practice, it was all in the middle.

“Then one offseason, he asked me if I was ready to start learning to shoot , and that’s where everything changed for me. It helped me become the player I am today.”

Even though Kwan doesn’t take a leap in the power department, he still has the elite bat-to-ball skills that should make him a mainstay in the Guardians’ lineup. de Kwan have been hit with breaking balls, which means he still has enough pop in his bat to make pitchers pay for his mistakes. )

“In the miners, they told us that power is something you can teach, as opposed to hand-eye and contact rate, so hopefully things keep moving forward,” Kwan said. .

After admiring Kwan from afar for most of the season, Brantley got a closer look at Kwan’s game in early August when the Astros traveled to Progressive Field for a four-game series. games against the Guardians.

Houston’s visit to Cleveland could not have coming at a better time, too, as Kwan entered the series three games shy of tying the 19-game hitting streak Brantley had as a rookie. Brantley’s streak remained intact, however, as Kwan went 0-2 in Game 2 of the series before leaving with a bruised foot.

“It’s still a great achievement,” said Brantley, who is out since June with a shoulder injury that will rule him out for the rest of 2022. “It’s a lot of beatings and it’s not easy to do; it’s a testament to how he is getting ready and the swing he has. … Cleveland is like home to me, so I always look out for them, and I saw he had a good start to his career for them.”

In the 4,590 days between Brantley and Kwan’s debuts, first-round picks like Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall and Bradley Zimmer have all failed in their quest to be the heir apparent to Progressive Field’s outfield.

Now, Kwan is part of a Cleveland youth movement that threatens to take the American League by storm, much like Brantley and his teammates did in the mid-2010s.

“I’m in a place where I can be whoever I want to be and I don’t have to change my game to fit a certain style of play,” Kwan said. . “I can kind of show what I have.”



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