Ross said he’s committed to Bryant as leadoff man. Not ready to reveal the rest of the lineup. pic.twitter.com/40sa25jhmr— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) February 19, 2020
Bryant has been the center of trade speculation throughout the offseason, though it appears that he’ll open the year in Chicago. Instead this news opens up new questions for a player we already had concerns about. The biggest one was his power “surge”, as he saw his power rebound with 31 HR over 634 PA in 2019. However it’s fair to wonder how much of that was due to the general increase in home runs throughout the game, as a few big months skewed the overall results (18.0% HR/FB):
- May – 28.6% HR/FB (10 HR)
- September – 29.4% HR/FB (5 HR)
Keep in mind that both his Exit Velocity (87.4%, compared to a league average 87.5%) and Hard Hit % (34.1%, compared to a league average 34.5%) were underwhelming marks. While his launch angle helps (19.3%), it’s not enough to get you overly enthused about the power. Considering how skewed things were against LHP (.629 SLG) compared to RHP (.495 SLG), would it be surprising to see him fall closer to the 24-27 HR range this season?
Then you have to worry about the strikeout rate, as his SwStr% has risen for three straight seasons:
- 2017 – 10.0%
- 2018 – 11.9%
- 2019 – 12.5%
The potential for rising strikeouts and a decrease in his power does throw his average into question. Hitting atop the order that’s going to be key, because he’s not going to have as many RBI opportunities (suddenly 75-80 RBI could be in play, as opposed to 90+). He needs to make up the different by scoring a lot of runs, and while the Cubs’ offense should be strong is it a guarantee (Anthony Rizzo, for instance, is also full of questions). He can draw walks, but if the average is .260ish it may not be enough.
Considering his current average ADP in NFBC formats (57.52), we’d prefer targeting names like Max Muncy (74.09), Matt Chapman (89.87), Eduardo Escobar (119.02) and a host of others.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings: