Programming Note: As you may have noticed, posts have become slightly more scarce over the offseason (in which we celebrated the Cubs winning the World Series after a 3-1 deficit). I think that happened for two reasons. The first is that the Cubs won the World Series, so it's sort of like the ending of a book. They reached the promised land, and there wasn't that much more to say. Our need to think about baseball went away for a little while. The second is that the Cubs just didn't do that much in the offseason. With the exception of Wade Davis, the Cubs are basically the same team as they were last year. When that team won the World Series after a 3-1 deficit, there isn't that much to change, but nonetheless it still made a boring offseason. Additionally, I now have baby Russell to tote around, and having 2 kids means less time to blog.
Now that the season is fast approaching, and I've started to get the itch to talk baseball again, I'm hoping to pick up the pace. Hopefully I can convince the other writers to do the same.
I'm going to take a look at the 201 Cubs, starting with the best players and taking a descending order. I'm just sorting by projected WAR (ZIPS).
Kris Bryant (3B)
In 2016: Fairly decent season, as Bryant slashed .292/.385/.554 with 39 HR, 75 BB, and the NL MVP award and 8.4 WAR.
In 2017: Bryant is projected to slash .274/.372/.512 with 33 HR, 78 BB, and 5.8 WAR.
Whistling overhead –
Another ball exploded.
Wears Express clothing.
Kris Bryant is either the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best baseball player. Number 1 is clearly Mike Trout. I'd have Bryant as number 2, though I'm willing to listen to arguments on either Clayton Kershaw (the best pitcher since Pedro Martinez) or Josh Donaldson (who has slightly more pedigree than Bryant, and similar if not slightly better offensive numbers in a better league [though easier offensive environment]). He's just 25, and he has 15 career WAR. Before 2016, he was a great, but flawed player – he led the league in strikeouts (199!), and the worry was that he wouldn't be able to cut that number without a significant dip in power. Well, he went from 30.6% to 22.0% while increasing his ISO from .213 to .262. When a top-20 offensive player gets better in every way, while getting BETTER at defense, you've got a special player. Bryant used to lead Rizzo off the bag and into the first base line. That stopped in 2016. The only thing that I'm even slightly worried about is the fact that he pulled a LOT of balls last year. He's a shiftable righty, and there aren't that many of those. Honestly, though, who cares? They aren't shifting bums – they shift players who are blistering the ball on the regular.
One thing you might be able to worry about is how Bryant sort of fell off at the end of the year. In Sept/Oct, he slashed .221/.293/.375 –
Wait. What's that you say? Bryant slashed .308/.400/.523 in the playoffs last year, with 3 HR? Oh, ok, forget I said anything.
Seriously, Bryant is the type of player you can build a team around, and he's one of two players the Cubs have for which that is true. Bryant isn't a free agent until 2022, when he'll cash in to a ridiculous, ridiculous contract. I wouldn't expect a hometown discount, but he's absolutely a player the Cubs will want around for 15 years.