Chicago Cubs: Can slugger Kris Bryant break out in the second half?

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

It’s no secret Kris Bryant is having a down year, at least to his standards. But there’s still time for a big second half from the Chicago Cubs third baseman.

The Chicago Cubs superstar third baseman has had his ups and downs in his 2018 campaign. When you first look at the numbers, Bryant supports a healthy .276/.380/.474 slash line and 129 wRC+, per Fangraphs. For a lot of players, that’s really good.

Then you look at the 11 home runs and you wonder. What? Really? Bryant’s power outage has been one of many topics of the Cubs offensive woes this season. Despite his low home run count, the Cubs still lead the National League in runs, hits, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, total bases and even hit-by-pitches.

You can credit a lot of wins because of players like Jason Heyward, who looks like the hitter we saw in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform in 2015, Javy Baez, who has put himself into the NL MVP conversation and Albert Almora, who is top five in the NL in batting average and Gold Glove-caliber in centerfield.

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Don’t forget Kyle Schwarber, who has bounced back after a mostly down 2017 season and leads the Cubs in home runs with Baez this season. Lastly, Ian Happ, who has been a nice fill-in when injuries have plagued the Cubs and has been playing his best baseball of the season over the last month.

This year has further demonstrates depth can carry a team. Bryant missed roughly two in a half weeks due to a nagging shoulder injury that many believe has affected his power.

During that span, Happ stepped in and played third base mostly. He slashed .367/.500/.490 while Bryant was on the disabled list. That’s healthy for what many consider the Cubs’ fourth outfielder.

However, Bryant is back after some time off including the All-Star Break. Since returning from the DL on July 11, Bryant sports a .250/.362/.425 slash line. Though, his wRC+ sits a 117 and his walk (10.6 percent) and K-rate (19.1 percent) during this span is better than major league average.

Furthermore, his fly ball rate (40.3 percent) is the lowest of his short career. In his MVP season, it was 45.8 percent. He also boasts the lowest WAR (1.6) of his career – although there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played.

I wonder if his approach to make more contact is hurting his ability to produce power numbers. In 2015, Bryant lead the league in strikeouts (199), striking out 30.6 percent of the time. Both his strikeout and K-rate have improved each season since then, meaning he’s putting the ball in play more or walking more. This season is the first season we’ve seen a drastic power drop, however.

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We’ll see what he can produce over the next two months and reevaluate then. I suspect he’s due for a big month, most notably in August, where he’s absolutely dominated the last two seasons. Last August, Bryant slashed .343/.457/.588 with a 172 wRC+. In 2016, Bryant slashed .383/.472/.748 with 10 home runs and a 216 wRC+ in August that helped propel him to the NL MVP award.