While his rookie season has no-doubt been impressive, there were several other players more deserving of the honor than the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant. Right?
I’ve heard a handful of fans say that the Cubs rookie was ‘gifted’ his spot on the National League All-Star based solely on his hype and the mountainous expectations that accompany his arrival to the big leagues.
With that in mind, I started out on a mission to prove them right.
It wasn’t that hard to imagine. Baseball is grasping at younger fans, hoping to reinvigorate interest in America’s Pastime among the more recent generations.
What better way to do that than have more young stars in the All-Star Game?
So let’s dive into the rabbit hole.
According to Fangraphs, the Chicago Cubs third baseman ranks eighth in the National League in terms of WAR (3.4). He joins teammate Anthony Rizzo (3.7) in the top 10, but remains a far cry from the best in the league. That honor belongs to Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals (5.7).
So when you look at the names ahead of Bryant in wins above replacement, you notice something: they’re all on the National League All-Star team.
Bryant has managed to breathe life into a franchise that has appeared deeply lost over the past decade, taking them from perennial cellar-dweller to a legitimate postseason threat.
Of course, he hasn’t been alone in this pursuit of October; Rizzo is having an MVP-caliber season across the diamond from him and both Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta have done their parts to keep the Cubs in the hunt in the NL Wild Card race.
Believe the hype. Kris Bryant is the real deal.
At his position, Bryant ranks fifth in WAR, fourth in RBI and fifth in slugging percentage among third basemen in baseball.
That’s not to say he hasn’t struggled. His 29.2 percent strikeout rate is the sixth-highest mark in Major League Baseball. Of course, he has some decent company. The fifth-worst mark in the league belongs to Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and the seventh goes to another National League rookie, Joc Pederson.
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As a team, the Chicago Cubs strike out more than any team in baseball outside the Astros. It comes with youth.
That being said, the former number two overall pick ranks behind only Rizzo in terms of OPS, coming in at .848. He leads the club in runs batted in and has shown a mature approach at the dish, coming in with an OBP hovering around .375.
To suggest that Kris Bryant hasn’t earned his All-Star appearance is absurd. There’s hardly been a player his age to have a bigger impact (outside of the usual suspects of Harper and Mike Trout) and with the Chicago Cubs in contention, it makes a lot of sense to showcase his talent.
While the publicity is nice, there’s an even bigger perk to having him on the NL All-Star roster.
He makes the team better.