Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

kris bryant cubs watchingKris Bryant is a freaking stud, and no recent struggles are going to convince me otherwise.

Maybe that’s a preconception fooling me or my eyes lying to me, but, despite his significant contact struggles this year, I remain fully convicted that Bryant is going to be a special offensive player in the big leagues for a long time. There’s too much going for him – things that other players simply cannot match – for improvements not to come.

None of which is to say that the entire body of his rookie work is still not very impressive: .246/.354/.432 with a 120 wRC+ in his first go around in the bigs, just two years removed from college. He’s doing that while playing passable (at worst) defense at third base. He’s accumulated 3.5 WAR, according to FanGraphs, and thus projects to reach 5.0 WAR by the end of the year – making him one of the most valuable players in the game at age 23.

It’s a young man’s game these days, though, and Bryant’s relative slump – he’s hitting just .185/.289/.370 with a 32.6% K rate since mid-June – has brought him back to the pack in the NL Rookie of the Year race. Whether awards like that actually matter or not (and whether those who choose them rely on the right information or not), I do think they’re fun to follow.

Craig Edwards has a nice write-up at FanGraphs on the race, together with some visual representation of how the year has gone for various rookies.

Bryant still probably leads the pack – he’s ahead in WAR, if nothing else – but there are a ton of great performances, from Matt Duffy to Joc Pederson to Jung-Ho Kang to Chris Heston to Noah Syndergaard to the guy who has been surging the most, Randal Grichuk. (The latter, by the way, is blowing away what he did in the minors because why wouldn’t he?)

Rooting for Bryant to succeed from here on out, of course, has far more to do with wanting to see the Cubs reach the playoffs than it does any personal accolades for Bryant. But, if Bryant does bounce back and start rocking like I believe he can over the next two months, he’ll probably lock up the accolades anyway.

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