by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Kris Bryant was likely a consensus first round pick entering 2017, but he has been somewhat of a disappointment this season. Granted no one is going to really complain about a player hitting .297 with 29 HR, 73 RBI and 110 R through Monday, though those numbers fell short of expectations. A year ago he hit 39 HR with 102 RBI and 121 R, so he’s regressed in all three counting stats.
Is part of the problem spending a lot of time hitting second in the batting order:
- Second – 400 AB
- Third – 132 AB
- Other – 6 AB
It would be an easy thing to point to, but don’t be so quick. In 2016 Bryant actually spent 325 AB hitting second, 239 AB hitting third and 39 AB hitting fifth. The big difference is that Cubs’ leadoff hitters led the league in OBP a year ago, with a .381 OBP. This year they are 17th, at .326, and that means fewer opportunities to drive in runs.
He’s also played a few less games, while his fly ball rate and HR/FB rates have been fairly consistent:
- Flyball Rate – 45.8% to 42.3%
- HR/FB Rate – 18.8% to 16.3%
His first half marks were closer to his 2016 marks (45.1% and 17.8%, respectively), showing that the same potential pace is there. It would be easy to imagine a return to the 35+ HR range, regardless of what he does from here on out. If he gets hot it would be hard not to anticipate it.
That alone would help him add some RBI, and if the team gets better performances atop the lineup it would look that much better. With the runs scored being there, kicking in a few stolen bases and a vast improvement in his plate discipline (9.8% SwStr% and a 28.0% O-Swing%) the outlook is strong.
He has all the makings of a .300/35/100/100 hitter, and that obviously is a first round pick. Even as things stand now you could make the argument that he belongs in the Top 12, but a strong finish to the season will lock it in. It’s definitely something to watch closely, and we will further analyze it in the offseason, but for now view him as a viable first round option heading into 2018.
Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports, MLB.com