When the Colorado Rockies signed Kris Bryant to a seven-year $182 million contract in 2022 it was with the expectation and hope that he would play to the caliber of a player that is a four-time All-Star and former MVP. So far, they have not gotten the type of player they expected that will hit home runs and be the driving force of power in the lineup. Instead, they have an aging veteran that seems to have seen his power disappear and is in the midst of a dire slump. What’s going on with Bryant and can things change?
It’s no mystery that Bryant has had a rough month of May. Entering Tuesday, Bryant is batting .224/.333/.318 this month and has gone 5-for-35 over the last 14 days. His slide this month has dropped his season line to .263/.348/.376 to go along with his five home runs and 17 RBI. Following Wednesday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bryant’s numbers didn’t improve. He ended up going 1-for-4 with three strikeouts.
#Rockies Kris Bryant comes to the plate 1-for-3 tonight.— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) May 31, 2023
He entered the game having gone 3-for-31 (.097) over his last nine games and 15-for-76 (.197) over his last 20 games since May 5. He hasn't hit a homer since May 7 at New York.
Additionally, his wRC+ comes in at 88, the lowest number in a full season in his career. His struggles have caused many to once again question the merits of his contract and if he is going to be able to produce in any sort of capacity over the course of the deal.
Bryant has 50 hits this season and out of those 50 hits, 39 are singles. The other 11 hits consist of six doubles and his five home runs, which is not at all what the Rockies were hoping for as general manager Bill Schmidt recently told The Denver Post “We anticipated more power.”
Bryant’s isolated power is running at a .113 clip, the lowest it has ever been in his career. At the rate he is going, he is on pace to hit a mere 13-15 home runs, if we’re lucky. For a guy that has also hit about 30 doubles in every full season prior to joining the Rockies, he’s on pace to hit just 20, which is quite alarming considering he plays for a team that has a home ballpark tailor-made for extra-base hits in the gaps.
So, what’s Bryant doing with the bat that’s mostly resulting in singles and/or lackluster results? Looking at his 2023 MLB Percentile Rankings via Statcast, the answer is clear, it comes down to batted balls.
In 2023, Bryant has a 30.9% hard-hit rate, the second-lowest rate of his career behind the 28.9% in 2022. That rate places him at the bottom of the league in both average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage. Typically, when a batter hits the ball hard more often than not, he will usually see his numbers improve, especially in the power department. Unfortunately, Bryant isn’t barreling up the ball, despite a 76.9% contact rate, which further explains the lack of power production the Rockies are hoping for.
When you look at how he is putting balls in play, there are good signs. He currently has a career-high line drive rate of 27%, a lowered ground ball rate of 34.2%, and a fly ball rate of 38.8% which is within the median range of his career average. Additionally, he has a .299 BABIP which is about the league average on balls in play. Sure there may be some bad luck involved, but it’s evident that his bat is not up to snuff. Line drives are good, and no one will complain about that, but the problem is that he just isn’t squaring up the baseball consistently and hitting it hard most of the time, or even finding the gaps in the field.
As you can see in his spray chart, most of his hits are being recorded via a ball in play through the left side of the infield or a line drive that drops in left field. Three of his doubles have also come from a ball down the left-field line. In fact, he currently leads the league in pulled balls. Yet, the lack of power is evidenced by the fact that most hits are not getting driven deep in the outfield, even on flyouts. When Bryant does square up a ball, 60% of those home runs were designated as a no-doubter according to Statcast.
This all isn’t to say that Bryant isn’t doing some things well. He still draws a good amount of walks and doesn’t strike out a ton, while also being a quality clubhouse leader behind the scenes to uplift his teammates. As I mentioned, line drives aren’t bad and Bryant knows that, but in order to live up to the contract and make a difference for the Rockies, he has to find a way to hit the ball harder and hit for extra bases more often, as well as drive in runs. It doesn’t have to all be home runs, doubles are still good, but it has to be consistent and sustainable.
Kris Bryant is still a good baseball player, but unfortunately for the Rockies, he is never going to be the great player that won the MVP in 2016. Still, that doesn’t mean he can’t find a way to be a critical productive power piece that compliments the likes of young players like Brenton Doyle, Ezequiel Tovar, and Zac Veen in the years to come.
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On the Farm
Jeff Criswell had a tough night on the mound, giving up 10 runs on 12 hits, including three home runs in 4 1⁄3 innings of work. The Isotopes offense couldn’t overcome the deficit despite four players with multi-hit nights, including Aaron Schunk’s three hits and Coco Montes hitting his 10th homer of the season.
Hunter Goodman launched his 16th home run of the season to give him a whopping 50 RBIs on the season. Chris McMahon started on the mound and tossed four innings, allowing two runs on six hits with three strikeouts.
Pitching was the star of the show for Spokane. Carson Palmquist started on the mound and allowed one run through 2 2⁄3 innings before giving way to Cullen Kafka who then tossed 4 1⁄3 shutout innings, surrendering just two hits. Offensively, Spokane got a three-hit night from Nic Kent at the bottom of the lineup while Adael Amador had a pair of hits at the top. Rounding out the middle was Zach Kokoska with a two-hit, two-RBI night.
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