The Cleveland Indians just announced that outfielder Michael Brantley underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery yesterday, aimed at stabilizing ligaments. He’s expected to be able to resume baseball activities in 4-5 months, which is likely to delay the beginning of his 2018 season.
Brantley only played in 90 games for the Indians in 2017, sitting out most of August and all of September, but returning for the postseason. He injured the ankle in a game against the Rockies on August 8 and it never did get quite right, as his 1-for-11 line in the ALDS suggested. On the season as a whole Brantley hit .299/.357/.444 with nine homers and 52 driven in.
Brantley’s contract expires with the 2017 season, but there is a 2018 team option at a relatively reasonable $11 million. While he has only played 101 games in the past two seasons combined due to injuries, his strong performance from 2012-2015, and his status as a team leader, will likely lead the Indians to exercise that option.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.