What Kris Bryant brings to the Colorado Rockies

Kris Bryant swinging. Credit: Darren Yamashita, USA TODAY Sports.
Kris Bryant swinging. Credit: Darren Yamashita, USA TODAY Sports.

You’ve already heard of the newest member of the Colorado Rockies.

That says something in and of itself.

But let’s dive a bit deeper into the career of Kris Bryant thus far.

The former Chicago Cubs star made his MLB debut in 2015 at the age of 23, after the Cubs manipulated his service time, holding him back a month to get an extra year of control at the end of his contract.

He broke out immediately and showed the world why he was such a highly-touted draft pick back in 2013, taken second overall just ahead of the Rockies pick of Jon Gray.

In his first taste of Big League competition, Bryant slashed .275/.369/.488 with 26 home runs and 99 RBI, good for a 135 OPS+. It was a 5.3 bWAR campaign that earned him the National League Rookie of the Year award as he earned 100 percent of the first place votes.

His follow-up sophomore season was even better. In fact, it was Bryant’s best to date. A 7.3 bWAR campaign was highlighted by a 146 OPS+ and 39 home runs. That was good enough for more hardware as he (again comfortably) won the NL MVP award for 2016.

After that, both he and the Cubs drifted out of the headlines as that team started to move back toward selling and rebuilding, eventually culminating in the trade of Bryant to the San Francisco Giants last season.

Still, in the seasons in between, Bryant has remained one of the best and most consistent hitters in baseball. Apart from the pandemic-shortened 20202 season, Bryant has never posted an OPS+ lower than 121 in any individual season.

For some comparison, 121 happens to be the career mark of Nolan Arenado. Trevor Story sits at 112. Bryant, for his career, is at 132.

Of course, Bryant is nowhere near as defensively capable as those two but he does bring an interesting versatility to the mix.

He won’t win a Gold Glove at any position but the fact that he can play first or third or corner outfield (maybe even center in a pinch) allows the Rockies to mix and match with the rest of their roster in order to get the most out of them without blocking any potential young breakout star.

Bryant is a four-time All-Star, including last season when he posted a 3.8 bWAR and a 124 OPS+. At 30 years old, he is likely past his prime but shouldn’t be hitting the rapid decline stages for a few more years. Again just for reference, he is about a year younger than Arenado.

Interestingly, Bryant has only ever led the league in one category when he scored the most runs in the NL back in 2016. Otherwise, his hitting profile is spread out across the spectrum. His career strikeout rate is just under the 24 percent league average, which is great for a 30+ home run bat, and his walk rate of 11.5 percent is comfortably above the average which is usually around seven or eight percent.

He gets the ball into the air which usually spells for good things at Coors Field. A career ground ball rate of roughly 36 percent has stayed consistent and never risen into the 40s. The average MLB ground ball rate is 43.6. 

He doesn’t have especially good numbers in the clutch and doesn’t dominate any one category but has simply shown an ability throughout his career to avoid extended slumps, finding multiple ways to help the offense pretty much all the time.

So, the Colorado club just signed the best hitter on their roster.

He slots immediately into the middle of the lineup and allows fellow veteran sluggers in C.J. Cron and Charlie Blackmon to slide into roles a bit more reasonable for their current performance projections.

It also takes some pressure off of guys like Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers who no longer have the burden of transforming into driving forces of the offense but can instead find plenty of value out of being strong contributors.

The lineup still needs work, make no mistake. 

But this addition takes them from one of the worst lineups in the NL in 2021 to one that has a much better chance to be a middle-of-the-pack offense. That may not sound super exciting but a repeat performance from the starting pitching and some improvement in the bullpen could make the most out of the offensive improvement.

Either way, one thing is for sure, the argument that absolutely no one worth their salt would want to play for this organization can die. Kris Bryant is a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, and a World Series champion. There were other suitors, including reportedly the San Diego Padres.

Bryant chose Colorado. Let’s see what happens with a star player who wants to be here.

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