Chicago Cubs Gradeout: Kris Bryant’s 2015 Rookie of the Year campaign
How often does a player come into his first Major League season with as much hype as Kris Bryant and actually deliver?
Well, with this kid, the hype grew once he started hitting home runs at an alarming rate down in Arizona.
When you have that much hype during Spring Training, it certainly bears watching. Bryant’s 2015 rookie campaign not only lived up to the hype, it exceeded it and then some.
Bryant finished his first season in the big leagues as a Chicago Cubs rookie record-holder for most home runs (26) and RBI (99). But aside from just hitting for power and driving in a load of runs, the rookie is simply a professional hitter.
Sure, he struck out an NL-worst 199 times. He also managed a 12% walk rate; his 77 walks were good for 10th-best in the National League. Bryant was also 11th in the NL with a .369 OBP, 12th in slugging, top 10 in BB/PA and averaged 4.08 pitches per AB – 11th best in the NL and just above former MVP Andrew McCutchen and 13 spots ahead of his own teammate, Anthony Rizzo.
Kris Bryants’ WAR topped out at 6.5, the best among 2015 rookies and the 10th-highest figure of any player in the game. A rookie with a veteran approach at the plate, Bryant turned his fantastic 2015 season into Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year honors. He might even get a vote or two for MVP.
Bryant played 136 games at third base, and saw time in center, left and right. He also spelled Rizzo for a day at first but that won’t be the norm. However, going into 2016 there is talk Bryant could play the outfield more regularly, especially if Javier Báez figures into the everyday lineup.
The budding star, whose jersey sales led all MLB players, can work on his fielding, and though he committed 17 errors at the hot corner, he was still a plus defender (0.6). He more than made up in this deficiency with his production in the batter’s box. He was a better hitter in the second-half of the season (.282 BA) than in the first-half (.269) and his 48 RBI in the second-half placed him top five in the NL post Midsummer Classic.
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He also seemed to have a flair for the dramatics in 2015, hitting walk-off home runs, grand slams and even hitting the farthest home run of 2015 – a staggering 495 feet. While very good at taking his pitches, working full counts and taking the free pass, baseball will have another full-blown monster on its hands once he curbs the strikeouts.
He hit .368 with two outs and runners on to go with nine home runs and 45 RBI. With runners in scoring position and two outs, he was slightly worse – to a tune of 3 home runs, 32 RBI and a .350 BA.
Bryant led all rookies in RBI, runs scored, doubles and tied for first in home runs and games played. He was second in walks, finished sixth among all rookies in stolen bases and finished with the third best average.
I’m not done.
He was also first among all rookies in OBP, slugging and OPS.
This was just his rookie season and in spite of the incredible numbers, he can still improve upon his already superb plate discipline, i.e. reducing the strikeout rate.
Let’s see what he can do once he completely figures it all out. The 2016 encore will be a treat.
Next: Grading Jon Lester's better than you think 2015 season