That’s what the Rockies expected last spring when they signed outfielder Kris Bryant to a seven-year, $182 million contract.
But Bryant has not generated the statistics or the buzz the Rockies hoped for when they gave him the largest free-agent contract for a position player in franchise history. Nor has Bryant helped put fannies in the seats at Coors Field. The Rockies are averaging 27,236 fans per game, 17th in the majors. Last season, they averaged 32,467, ranking ninth.
Bryant is 31 and the question must be asked. Is he simply in a prolonged slump or is he a fading star?
Bryant entered Wednesday night’s game at Arizona as a Rockie in a hard place. He’d hit .114 (4 for 35) over his last 10 games and .205 (16 for 78) over his last 20. For the season, he was hitting .263 with a .719 OPS and an 87 OPS+.
Tuesday night, Bryant led off the second inning with a bullet to center off Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen. The ball came off Bryant’s bat at 107.2 mph, Bryant’s highest exit velocity since hitting a 108.8 mph double on opening day. He’s still got a pretty, powerful swing.
But then Bryant struck out three times in his next three at-bats in Colorado’s 5-1 loss at Chase Field.
Every player, of course, goes through slumps. Third baseman Ryan McMahon was in one of the worst funks of his career before hitting .565 (13 for 23) with four home runs, two doubles, one triple and 12 RBIs during a six-game hot streak.
But the bigger picture of Bryant is concerning. In his first 92 games in a Rockies uniform, he slashed .283/.359/.420 with 10 home runs in 395 at-bats. Not bad for most major league players, but certainly not worth the $28 million owner Dick Monfort is paying Bryant this season.
Bryant’s home run rate with the Rockies is a middling 2.5%, well below his career average of 4.2% and below the league average of 3.1% as well. He’s on pace to hit just 14 homers this season.
“You can’t force home runs,” Bryant told The Post last week. “As much as you want the ball to go over the fence you just can’t swing for it every time. It’s worked for some guys, but sometimes those career paths don’t look as consistent.
“For me, I’m just trying to go out there and provide quality at-bats and consistent at-bats for the team. If that means hitting the ball over the fence, great. If it means taking a walk or getting on base, that’s what I’ll do. I also realize that power comes in bunches.”
Of Bryant’s 50 hits this season, 39 have been singles. He’s a line-drive hitter who prides himself on hitting doubles, but he’s only hit six so far, putting him on pace for 20. As recently as 2021, when he played for the Cubs and the Giants, Bryant stroked 32 doubles.
Batting primarily second (21 starts) or third (28 starts) in the order, Bryant has driven in only 17 runs. That ranks seventh on the team, behind rookie shortstop Ezequiel Tovar (22 RBIs batting from the bottom of the order), and also behind rookie center fielder Brenton Doyle (14 RBIs from the bottom of the order in just 28 games).
Bryant understands what he needs to do to generate more consistent power.
“Try to hit the ball on the pull side more,” he said. “Hit with the contact point more out in front of the plate. Most of these guys throw really hard so it’s not the easiest thing to try to catch (the ball) out front. If you want to get balls out of the park, that’s where you have to hit it.”
To that end, Bryant has been working extensively with hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens.
Perhaps Bryant snaps out of his funk. Perhaps it happens Wednesday night in the desert.
But Bryant certainly doesn’t look anything like the budding superstar he was in that glorious 2016 season when he batted .292, posted a .939 OPS, launched 39 homers, hit 35 doubles, and drove in 102 runs. At this point, the Rockies would settle for an occasional glimpse of that star power.
Want more Rockies news? Sign up for the Rockies Insider to get all our MLB analysis.
Source: Read Full Article