Ever since Dexter Fowler gained free agency in 2016, the Chicago Cubs have been searching for a leadoff man. Not just a guy wo can bat first, but a guy who can get on base. In 2019, Joe Maddon used a plethora of players in that spot, none producing with any sort of consistency. This year, Kris Bryant volunteered for the job. Whether by choice or due to a lack of options, David Ross committed to KB. Two games in and I can already assure you, Kris Bryant is not the Cubs answer for a leadoff man.
In the first pair of regular season games, Bryant is now 0 for 9. He hasn’t walked, he hasn’t been beaned, but he has fanned three times (.333 strikeout rate). If you factor in the two exhibition games against the White Sox, his numbers get even worse. Bryant went 1 for 6 (no walks), making his batting average .167 from the leadoff spot in 15 at-bats. Certainly not what you want form a leadoff man.
Over his career, Bryant has posted an OBP of just .383, not exactly a prime number for the leadoff spot. Bryant’s strikeout rate (career) sits at just under 28%, while his walk rate hovers around 12%. Yes, he’s had his moments, but over the course of the last three years, consistency has been an issue.
Ongoing Issues For Chicago
Dating back to last September, Theo Epstein told Tony Andracki (NBC Sports Chicago), “I feel really, honestly embarrassed by the on-base numbers we’ve had in the leadoff spot,” he said. “That’s not the way at all to build an offense. To the point where you roll it back again, you might just want to consider taking any one of your best hitters and just throwing them up in the leadoff spot. The No. 1 rule of lineup construction is get your best hitters up top, bunch them together, get them up top in the lineup and let them do some damage.
“With the on-base production we’ve been getting out of the leadoff spot this year, it’s been certainly a detriment to our lineup. No, I don’t begrudge people making a big deal out of it. It certainly is.”
It’s not inconceivable to think that Kris Bryant could be traded by the August 31st deadline. After losing his service-time grievance, the Cubs gained an extra year of control. As a result, Bryant becomes a free agent after the 2021 season, making that his walk year. Between Tom Ricketts watching his wallet and Scott Boras padding his own, the likelihood of Bryant re-signing with Chicago is next to nil.
The Cubs are hurting for quality relievers, and trading Bryant while he still has a year of controllability could help. They’ll never be able to hold their core together, with most of them coming due for free agency over the next two years. Keeping Bryant in the leadoff spot – especially if he’s about to become trade bait – does nothing but hurt the team.
Ian Happ has improved tremendouslysince his stint in Triple-A last year, and I think Rossy is foolish not to give him a shot at the leadoff spot. Happ has already blasted a homer this season, not to mention he’s showing patience and drawing walks. Whether or not you look to Happ, get Bryant the hell out of there.
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