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Kris Bryant was around for a fun time, not a long time, in 2022

The first year of the new superstar’s tenure with the Rockies didn’t go to plan, but there’s reason to be excited for more

Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 15, Kris Bryant: 0.4 rWAR

So... yeah, that didn’t go as planned.

When Kris Bryant was signed to a seven-year contract ahead of this past season, many were shocked and excited by the decision. Bryant’s addition is arguably Colorado’s highest-profile free agent signing since Mike Hampton 22 years prior. The former World Series champion endeared himself to fans when he claimed he wanted to be a driving force in collecting the Rockies’ first championship and when he discussed his love of Denver. That’s about as good a first impression as one can hope to make.

The excitement seemed to be well-earned as the season began. Bryant slashed .281/.338/.351 in April while collecting four doubles and as many RBI. The power numbers weren’t quite there yet, but they would surely come as the season went on. “KB” would play a solid left field as well, showing off his range and athleticism on spectacular plays such as this one:

Trouble arose in late April, though, as Bryant’s back stiffened up and sidelined the slugger for almost a month. After returning for two games against the New York Mets, Bryant was put right back on the injured list with the same recurring back problem. When he finally returned to the lineup on June 27th, Rockies fans hoped that they would be seeing more of their new star in the season’s latter half.

That was sort of true. Bryant played a full July, once again showing what he was a force to be reckoned with when healthy. In that month, he produced a line of .341/.411/.612 with eight doubles and ten RBI. He also added his first homers of the season - five that month, including four in a five-game span. This was the Bryant we had eagerly been awaiting all season. Was he here to stay?

Spoiler alert: He was not.

Bryant wouldn’t play a game after July 31st thanks to a brutal combination of plantar fasciitis and a bone bruise in his right foot. With his season done, Rockies fans could only hope for the future as they watched youngsters such as Michael Toglia and Sean Bouchard get outfield playing time in place of the injured veteran. Bryant’s first campaign in purple lasted a total of 42 games, the fewest of any (non-COVID-shortened) season of his career.

Often in these Ranking the Rockies articles, we speculate on a player’s future and their role with the team. We don’t really have to do that here because Bryant’s are so clear: this cannot happen again.

Health is a tough thing to gauge or critique because, of course, no athlete wants to miss time due to injuries. We must assume that Bryant will spend the offseason getting his body back to 100% and preparing himself for a productive sophomore season at Coors Field. He must be present both on the field and off it. For instance, what does his contract mean for future potential Rockies free agency targets?

The signing of Bryant was an important moment for the Rockies in that it shows that, yes, Colorado can indeed land big-name free agents. As we enter free agency season currently, maybe Bryant’s glowing optimism and seemingly genuine belief that this team can compete in the near future could entice others of his caliber to enter the fold.

Former teammates Willson Contreras and Jose Quintana are free agents - maybe he can convince them to take their talents to altitude. If not a past Cub, perhaps Bryant’s mere presence and persona would be enough to get buy-in from other All-Star athletes.

It’s a little far-fatched, I admit, but hey, that’s what conjecture is for. What we can definitively say is that if Colorado is to compete, as the front office claims they do, Bryant is going to be integral to that goal. His bat is almost objectively the most dangerous in the Rockies lineup and will, by proxy, protect the hitters around him. His veteran leadership, especially having been a former World Series champion, will no doubt be of use to ball club that is only getting younger as they give more and more rookies big league opportunities.

Bryant understands how he can have a positive impact with his junior teammates. He told Purple Row in June that he “offers advice when I can in certain situations. It’s where I can really just sit back and observe and see how guys are different things and just pick their brain.” That kind of willingness to learn from and work with his compatriots will serve him well as he continues to carve out his path in Coors history.

Whether he wants it or not, Bryant is likely going to be considered one of, if not the, face of the Rockies for the immediate future. This is his team, one that he believes carries immense talent and can contend in a tough National League West division. This was a lost season - we know that much is true. When he was there, though, he contributed and made Colorado a better team as evidenced by their 20-22 (.476) record with him in the lineup versus 48-72 (.400) record without. As they continue to find their new identity, the Rockies will need Bryant to be the leader and star that they feel he can be. Hopefully a full offseason of rest and rehabilitation will be enough to get him back to his elite self.

If not... well, hey, we’ll always have that initial excitement to look back on fondly!