Is there a more underappreciated player in baseball than Astros veteran Michael Brantley, a dominant, middle-of-the-lineup force who suddenly finds himself on the precipice of MLB history? The Houston veteran delivered the goods again in Friday’s ALCS Game 1 against Boston, singling in the fifth inning to extend his postseason hitting streak to 16 games, one off the major-league record held by Red Sox legend Manny Ramirez. Over that span, the 34-year-old has hit an impressive .348 (24-for-69) with three homers, 13 RBI and eight runs scored.
Brantley has been at this for over a decade, yet the baseball masses continue to sleep on him. Perhaps as consistent as any player in the sport, the five-time All-Star has collected an average of .299 or better in seven of his last eight seasons, the lone exception being his lost 2016 campaign when injuries limited him to just 11 games. Brantley admittedly didn’t hit for much power this year (eight homers in 508 plate appearances), but he finished with the league’s second-highest contact rate—an even 90 percent—trailing only Angels infielder David Fletcher (91.4).