Kris Bryant made his MLB debut last year and played well, so what does this mean for his career projections?
Kris Bryant became one of the biggest stars not just in Chicago, but across all of baseball, in 2015.
With his beautiful swing, impressive power, there are many people who believe Bryant will be one of the best players in baseball for years to come. The biggest question is will he be considered one of the better third basemen, one of the overall best players in the game or will he fall somewhere else entirely?
It can be hard to settle on a career projection for Bryant, or at the very least a comparison to another player. Bryant’s skill-set includes a powerful bat and decent speed on the base paths, while his fielding at third base is fine but may become a moot point if he is eventually moved to the outfield.
Not to mention the fact that he is still developing, giving him a high floor and high ceiling for future production.
It’s natural to first look at the Cubs organization for a player comparison and possible future projection.
It’s worthwhile to compare Bryant’s rookie numbers to Ron Santo, the best third baseman in Cubs history. KB showed more early power than Santo and many believe that he could produce even more power than Santo, but there is much worse that he could do.
It’s also worth examining Billy Williams in comparison to Bryant, if for no other reason than it was Williams’ record for home runs in a rookie season that Bryant broke in 2015. The 1961 NL Rookie of the Year hit 25 home runs and knocked in 86 RBIs in five less games than 2015’s NL ROY. Again, the comparison may not be perfect, but following in Billy Williams’ footsteps is in no way a bad thing.
Looking across the league, there are few players from recent memory that you could compare Bryant to in the infancy of his career. An interesting comparison to an active player would be Giancarlo Stanton, one of the game’s premier power hitters.
It’s not expected that Bryant will follow a career path similar to that of Stanton, but their rookie seasons are fairly similar. Stanton had a comparable K% to Bryant’s 2015 year, as well as slightly lower batting average and OPS+, in addition to a slightly higher slugging percentage.
When taking into position into account, a common comparison is to Troy Glaus, a projection referenced by Fangraphs. A four-time all-star, Glaus was a consistent hitter who was one of Major League Baseball’s top third basemen.
While his career numbers aren’t gaudy, his peak was as strong as anyone, including a 47 home run, 150 OPS+ season in 2000. An interesting thing that could bode well for Bryant projections is the fact that his rookie year WAR (5.9) would qualify for the second-best of Glaus’ career.
However Evan Longoria may be the best active player to compare Bryant to for the sake of future projections.
Longoria has made three all-star games during his career (and arguably has been deserving of more), is a multi-time Gold Glove winner and also was named the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year. His rookie campaign featured numbers that are incredibly similar to Bryant’s 2015 numbers, including nearly identical batting averages, OPS and OPS+ numbers, as well as home runs and doubles.
Longoria struck out at a lower rate than Bryant, however Bryant had an edge in triples and stolen bases. A career path similar to that of Evan Longoria would certainly please Cubs fans, considering the success Longoria has had during his time in Tampa, but it’s not outlandish to suggest that Bryant could be even better.
In just one year of Major League action, Kris Bryant is already considered one of the game’s top talents. There are plenty of players with rookie numbers similar to those of Bryant, but it’s fair to say that expectations for him go far beyond recreating the careers of Troy Glaus and Evan Longoria.
That said, if these comparable rookie numbers do pan out, Bryant is still on pace for quite a career with the Cubs.