Chicago Cubs: How Kris Bryant fits back into the lineup

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

Kris Bryant is healthy! Obviously, he goes back in toward the top of the lineup and plays third base everyday, right? It wouldn’t surprise me if that is what eventually happens, but don’t be surprised if Joe Maddon puts him in other spots as well.

On Saturday, Joe Maddon hit Kris Bryant fifth in the batting order. With Daniel Murphy leading off, Javier Baez having an MVP-caliber season, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist swinging hot bats right now and Bryant coming off of an injury, fifth seems about the right spot in the batting order.. Not all that long ago the idea of batting Bryant below the top four spots in the batting order would have seemed ridiculous.

However, the former National League MVP is already making the case to be moved back up in the batting order. Saturday, he went 2-for-4. However, he did have two strikeouts in the other two at bats.

On Sunday, he went 1-for-3 with two more punchouts. That’s four strikeouts in just two days, but that’s to be expected – at least, to a degree.

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Maddon admitted he doesn’t have a strict plan and is going to play it by ear with regards to giving Bryant days off. He already hit the disabled list twice this season with a sore shoulder, trying to play through the injury at first. KB even admitted that the injury might be the result of working on his swing too much. So the Cubs want to be cautious with his health. If he is sore today after playing multiple games in a tow, Maddon will give him the day off. The priority, of course, is to have Bryant ready for the playoffs.

Defensive versatility

Bryant might not just play third base. In order to work in Addison Russell and David Bote while also keeping Murphy in the lineup, he might play in the outfield a little. This isn’t 2016 when Bryant played right or left field and Baez played third base to keep Zobrist at second. This is 2018. And in 2018 the Cubs play Russell and Baez up the middle as much as possible due to their superior defense. However, the Cubs also acquired a great hitter in Murphy who just happens to play second base. Oh, and the Cubs have a rookie who has a knack for coming up with big, clutch hits and he, Bote, is also an infielder.

Now the Cubs might prefer to play Bote in the outfield before Bryant. Bote has played out there a little bit in the minor leagues. And I’m not sure if it would be better or worse for Bryant’s shoulder to be making the long throws from the outfield or the quick strong throws from across the diamond. Bryant’s shoulder will be the first factor in when and where he plays.

I’m a little surprised that we haven’t seen Murphy at third base yet. He didn’t play third base with any regularity as a member of the Nationals. However, he did pick up a game or two in each of their seasons. As a member of he Mets, Murphy played about a tenth of his games at third base. And remember, back in those days, the Mets had David Wright as their full-time third baseman.

I was glad to hear when the Cubs acquired Murphy, he reportedly told Maddon to deploy him wherever the team needed him. To me that means that not only might he bat anywhere in the lineup, but that he might also play positions in the field other than just second base.

Now that Russell is back from the disabled list, I expect that we will see more of Russell and Baez up the middle. Saturday night, Murphy was removed from the game after his fourth at-bat. At first, Zobrist moved in from the outfield to play second. Later in the game, Russell was inserted at shortstop and Baez moved over to second base.

Next. . dark

Don’t be surprised if the next time Maddon use one of his player’s flexibility, its playing Bryant in the outfield to keep either Murphy’s bat in the order to get Bote some playing time.