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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fantasy focus: Michael Brantley

Matt LaPorta was believed to be the key piece to the CC Sabathia (C.C. in his Cy Young days with the Tribe) trade with Milwaukee in 2008.

The first baseman hasn't been a bust, but he hasn't been the second coming of Jim Thome, either.

LaPorta batted .221 in 2010, his first full big-league season, and entered Wednesday's game hitting .267 with four home runs, 21 RBI and an .825 OPS for the Tribe this season. In his career, he's a .238 hitter.

Brantley, meanwhile, seems to be developing into an All-Star.

The 24-year-old is batting .302 with four homers, 19 RBI, five steals and an .816 OPS in 139 at-bats.

He's been the Tribe's best outfielder, and he's finally getting the attention of fantasy owners. He wasn't acquired until a week ago in both of the leagues in which I play, and I'm regretting ignoring him, even if outfield is the strongest position on both of my teams.

Brantley is still available in more than 41 percent of the leagues on, and if he's on the waiver wire in yours, you should acquire him before it's too late.

He's become an every-week starter, and the guess here is he'll finish the season among the top 25 outfielders in fantasy.

In our News-Herald points league, Brantley is tied for 19th among all outfield-eligible players. However, he's ranked only No. 226 overall in ESPN's latest top 250.

I didn't rank him among the top 36 outfielders at the beginning of the month, but he certainly will crack the list when the rankings are updated.

Since April 30, Brantley, prior to Wednesday, was hitting .333 with 10 runs scored, three homers, 11 RBI and two steals in 54 at-bats. He had three homes and nine RBI in his last six contests.

The latter numbers are the most interesting from a player who was very productive in the minor leagues, but provided little power. In 2,122 at-bats down on the farm, Brantley batted .303 with 372 runs, 16 homers, 223 RBI and 163 steals.

You should be able to count on him to hit in the neighborhood of .300 and steal 20 to 25 bases. If he does that and begins to display 15-to-20 homer potential, he's a top 15 outfielder.

As it stands now, he's at least in the top 30 and should be a starter in all formats.

If you really want to feel better about the trade, Brantley is also having a better 2011 than Sabathia (3-3, 3.47 ERA, 1.36 WHIP).

(Insert complaint about the Yankees' payroll, a joke regarding CC's waistline or laugh at the Yanks entering Wednesday 5 1/2 games behind the Tribe here.)

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