By Todd Johnson
On Thursday night, Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs was named National League MVP. It’s quite the honor for the young 24-year-old, who just completed his second season in the MLB. Bryant received 29 out of the 30 first place votes. Teammate Anthony Rizzo finished fourth in the voting. It is amazing when you think that is only Bryant’s second year in the majors.
In looking at what Bryant did to win the MVP, it is not a clear case of him having overwhelming stats in one category. You really have to look at the whole of what he accomplished over the course of one season. And you can’t just look at home runs, or RBIs, you really have to look at how he played on offense AND where he played on defense.
For the year, Bryant hit .292 with a .385 on-base percentage. He had 39 home runs with 102 RBIs. He had an oWAR of 6.8 and a defensive WAR of 0.8. There are other stats that are admirable, but I don’t think they truly tell the value that he brought to the team. In other words, 0.8 is just a number but it doesn’t represent his true value/versatility.
Bryant is not the best defense of player on the team. He’s not even the best defensive third baseman on the team. Bryant’s value truly is shown in the number of positions he can play, and play well. He only started 100 games at third base. He also started 48 in the outfield and six at first base. However, he saw action at each of those positions in addition to starting.
His versatility, combined with Baez and Zobrist, allowed manager Joe Maddon to mix and match late in games by moving the three of them around. In addition, Bryant’s versatility also allowed for Maddon to get Baez and others playing time and rest without losing his bat in the lineup.
Winning Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first two seasons is quite the accomplishment. Bryant’s all-around game is still evolving. At just 24 years old, I don’t think there is any limit to what he can do. There are several awards he has yet to win including a Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, or World Series MVP.
To be honest, Cub fans are in for a treat as Bryant is not close to his peak years yet. His young age and his new swing of just 8 months are still his best allies going forward. Imagine him as he gains more experience and more knowledge with pitchers in the National League. He’s shown the ability to adjust quickly and on the fly in just two years in the show. I don’t think we’re going to see the best of what he can do until the 2018/2019 seasons. And those might be just the beginning. The Cubs still have him signed for two more seasons after those. Wow!