Kris Bryant has been oft-criticized since his shoulder injury last season, and that’s continued this season. But it’s still early, and he has plenty of time to turn this season into another great one for the Chicago Cubs.
Up until the 2018 season, the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant’s career was nearly perfect.
He was drafted second overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, then followed that up by being named the Minor League Player of the Year in 2014. In 2015, he burst onto the big league scene and broke out, earning the National League Rookie of the Year award. Then, in 2016, after leading the Cubs to a World Series title, he was named National League MVP.
So it’s safe to say last season was one of his first encounters with real adversity in his professional career. He got off to a hot start, but after injuring his shoulder in May, he never seemed the same for the rest of the season. He ended 2018 slashing .272/.374/.460.
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Throughout Spring Training, Bryant was adamant that he was completely healthy, and the shoulder injury was no longer an issue. But there’s no denying he’s been off to a slow start to 2019.
His current stats would be by far the worst of his career if the season ended today. He’s slashing .229/.353/.417. He hasn’t shown a lot of power yet either. Up until last weekend’s series in Arizona, he had just one home run.
The lack of power has been considered cause for concern by many. Could this be a sign that he’s still dealing with shoulder issues? Some fear that, but he’s been adamant that he’s completely healthy.
Relax, he still has time
Bryant’s been off to a slow start, but he’s not the only one. Anthony Rizzo‘s start to the season has mirrored last year’s, as he’s struggled early and is slashing just .214/.353/.449. But no one seems as panicked about him. He got it together last year, so it’s easy to feel confident he’ll do it again.
So why can’t Bryant get that same benefit of the doubt? Sure, there’s a possibility this will continue, and he’ll turn out another disappointing season. But after all he’s done as a Cub, it seems a little crazy to predict that he’ll never again be as good as he was in 2016.
Bryant had a promising weekend in the Cubs’ series win over Arizona. He had a hit in each game. All of them were extra-base hits, and two were home runs. He raised his slugging percentage all the way from .366 entering the weekend to .417 now.
According to an article by Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs, Bryant has also improved in his frequency and productivity in hitting to the opposite field. His numbers going the other way are currently the best of his career.
This weekend showed signs of what Bryant can be again if he revamps his power stroke and stays healthy. It’s understandable why people have been more worried about his slow start than anyone else. But Bryant insists he’s healthy, and as long as that’s true, he has plenty of time to get back to his old self and be a major contributor to this team.
Should Bryant get back into his groove, it would be a major boost for a team that has already been off to a promising start offensively. Some unexpected performers have been delivering for the team so far, but if guys like Bryant and Rizzo can get going, the offense has the potential to develop into one of the best in the National League.