CHICAGO -- Michael Brantley wasn't considered the ultimate prize when the Indians acquired him as part of the CC Sabathia trade in 2008. In fact, Brantley was the final piece of that deal as the "player to be named" and came to the Indians three months after the initial deal.
Matt LaPorta was thought to be the best prospect in that deal. Six years later, LaPorta is in the Mexican League while Brantley has become one of the club's most important players.
Brantley, who has averaged a .286 batting average, 65 runs scored and 67 RBIs over the past two years while seldom missing a game, is hitting .307 with an .893 OPS. He's a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen bases and has hit nine homers, one short of his career high set last season.
Brantley delivered a pair of hits in Monday's 6-2 loss to the White Sox, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. He's hitting .396 with three doubles, a triple, two homers and nine RBIs in that span.
In short, the Indians found the right "player to be named" in that significant deal.
"He does everything very well. He kind of, almost, reminds me of last year, like [Jason Kipnis]," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I know Brantley's been in the league and everything, but he has turned himself into one of the better players in the game. Not just hitters, not just dependable hitter, but outfielder, baserunner."
Francona also noted how hard Brantley worked on his outfield defense, in particular throwing, in Spring Training. It's paid dividends.
"That's why every time he makes one of those throws, I kind of remind myself to say something to the media, because I think when the year's over and you start talking about Gold Gloves and things like that, his name needs to start getting mentioned in things like that," Francona said. "And I know he won't toot his own horn, so I need to do it for him.
"He is very diligent. In Cleveland, he plays that corner and he works on it all the time. He works on the angles, his footwork. It's just his arm is so accurate. He's got good carry."
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.