Draft Day Decision: Does Kris Bryant Still Deserve A First Round Selection?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It’s hard to argue that 2017 was not a disappointing season for the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, after he won the NL MVP in 2016.  Was it the World Series hangover?  Was it the struggles of the supporting cast?  Was it just that he is incapable of matching that impressive season?

That’s a question we’ll try to answer, and while no one is going to say that he isn’t among the Top 20-25 players in the game the following numbers wouldn’t justify a first round pick:

549 At Bats
.295 Batting Average (162 Hits)
29 Home Runs
73 RBI
111 Runs
7 Stolen Bases
.409 On Base Percentage
.537 Slugging Percentage
.334 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Now the question facing fantasy owners is if he can rebound and deserve to be selected in the first round as we head into 2018, or if he’s morphed more into a second round selection?

The two numbers that jump out at you are his HR (after hitting 39 in ’16) and RBI.  To an extent the two go hand-in-hand, but the bigger issue is where Bryant was hitting in the lineup a year ago:

  • Second – 411 AB
  • Third – 132 AB
  • Fourth – 3 AB
  • Eighth – 1 AB
  • Ninth – 2 AB

In other words roughly 75% of his AB came from the #2 spot in the order.  While the game is changing, that’s never going to be an ideal spot to drive in runs (especially in the NL).  He also started drawing more walks than ever before (14.3%).  That’s hardly a “bad” thing, but it’s an issue we’ve seen with Joey Votto in the past.  Could he be too passive, taking a walk instead of trying to drive in runs?

The latter issue isn’t a big concern, as of yet, but it’s easy to imagine Bryant hitting either atop the order or second once again this season.  While that will help elevate his runs scored, even hitting third or fourth he’d push 100 R scored.  However, instead of pushing 100+ RBI he’s going to be capped at 70-80.  That will have a significant impact on his value.

As for the power, there isn’t much of a concern at this point.  He was showing a similar power pace in the first half of the season, only the slow down after the All-Star Break:

  • First Half – 17.8% HR/FB
  • Second Half – 13.8% HR/FB

Seeing him get back to at least the 35 HR range is likely, regardless of where he hits.  Couple that with the runs scored and ability to hit .290+ and there’s obviously going to be a lot to like.  First round ability, though?

If he were hitting third or fourth, where we’d be expecting 35/100/100 it would be an easy call.  How about 35/110/80?  It’s not a given that those numbers are first round worthy, especially since he could even drive in a few less runs than that.  While we wouldn’t be against him at the end of the round, he also isn’t a must select with hopes of getting him on the wrap instead.

Source – Fangraphs

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections:

Player
Date Published
Cano, Robinson10/09/17
Castillo, Luis10/03/17
Gerrit Cole10/30/17
Didi Gregorius11/20/17
Wil Myers10/24/17
Quintana, Jose11/13/17
Sanchez, Aaron12/05/17
Schoop, Jonathan11/27/17
Stroman, Marcus10/16/17
Walker, Taijuan 11/06/17

2 comments

  1. rebar says:

    Javier Baez should be hitting 2nd, but I’m not Joe Madden.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I’m not sure I agree, given the strikeout propensity. Also, there’s an outside chance they use Bryant and his OBP in the leadoff spot this season

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