Is the Cubs’ Kris Bryant really an underrated player? Teammate Anthony Rizzo thinks so.
Before the Cubs’ game Monday against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field was postponed because of the forecast of inclement weather, Rizzo was asked about Bryant’s hot start to the season. Bryant, who was named the National League player of the week Monday, has looked like the player who became a household name after being voted the NL Rookie of the Year in 2015 and the NL MVP in 2016.
Since those first two years, Bryant has accumulated 5.7 wins above replacement (according to Baseball Reference) in 2017 and 4.5 WAR in 2019, but he had an injury-plagued 2018 and struggled badly when he was in the lineup in the shortened 2020 season.
Rizzo has been connected with Bryant for more than a half-decade. He said Bryant is underrated and implied his consistency has gotten him overshadowed by other players.
”In this league, when you come on and you don’t continue to somehow ‘wow’ and you just stay consistent, the next guy comes up and wows or someone breaks out,” Rizzo said. ”Meanwhile, KB’s just been Steady Eddie. He’s had a couple of injuries, but he’s a really good baseball player, and it’s really nice to see him have this start of success because he’s enjoying it a lot more now and it’s contagious.”
The struggling Cubs hope it will prove to be contagious when they actually begin their series against the Dodgers. The Cubs will send right-hander Kyle Hendricks against Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday. Dodgers right-hander Trevor Bauer will oppose a to-be-determined Cubs starter in the nightcap.
On Monday, Bryant was going to show off another hallmark of his game: versatility. For only the second time in the majors, Bryant was set to start in center field. He has spent most of his career at third base but also has played left and right field to go with a handful of appearances at first base.
And it’s not as though Bryant looks lost when he leaves third. A strong athlete, he gets good jumps on the ball because he can read it well off the bat, giving the Cubs another viable outfield option when they need to juggle the lineup.
”His ability to do that is huge for our team,” Rizzo said. ”It gives us so much flexibility for him to jump around, and I don’t think he seems to mind it, either.”
None of this is news to Cubs manager David Ross, who was there as a teammate for Bryant’s first two seasons. He has started Bryant in the outfield 12 times this season and hasn’t noticed a drop-off at the plate despite moving him around the diamond.
”To me, it just says how good of a baseball player he is,” Ross said. ”He’s showing that. It doesn’t matter what he does, where you move him to, he’s going to go out and do his best.”
NOTES: Manager David Ross said outfielder Ian Happ and second baseman Nico Hoerner were both pretty sore after their collision Sunday in Cincinnati. Both went through a series of tests to see how they were doing. Neither was in the lineup posted before the postponement.
o Outfielder Joc Pederson (tendinitis in his left wrist) was activated from the 10-day injured list, and right-hander Keegan Thompson was optioned to the Cubs’ alternate site in South Bend, Indiana. By optioning Thompson, the Cubs are going with a five-man bench and keeping Hoerner in the majors.
o Ross said he hopes reliever Pedro Strop, who is on a personal leave, returns to the Cubs but indicated he doesn’t know when that will be.