If there were any doubts about Kris Bryant's ability to ascend to MVP levels of production following an impressive debut in 2015, the uncertainty was erased by the performance in his sophomore campaign. Bryant trimmed the fat from his 30.6 percent strikeout rate as a rookie to 22.0 percent last season, pushing his batting average up 17 points by swinging-and-missing less often, and by making contact on pitches outside the strike zone at an increased rate. It's hard to believe, but Bryant's raw power could push his home-run total even higher, though the pitcher-friendly tendencies of Wrigley Field are on the short list of things working again him (22 of his 39 homers came on the road). In addition to his step forward at the plate, Bryant's defense at third base has improved to the point where he's become an asset with the glove, quelling concerns about a full-time move to another corner spot for the foreseeable future.
Bryant was named the National League MVP by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. At 24 years old, Bryant hit .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers and 102 RBI, leading the Cubs to 103 wins during the regular season and ultimately a World Series title. He's already among the game's elite and it's very possible we haven't seen the best from Bryant. Daniel Murphy finished second in the voting, followed by NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager.
Bryant is not in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Pirates. Bryant will sit out for the second time in three days with manager Joe Maddon looking to get his regular players ample rest heading into the postseason. Tommy La Stella will man the hot corner Thursday in Bryant's place.
Bryant is out of the lineup Tuesday against the Pirates. He has started every game since the Cubs gave most of their regulars off for the clinching party (Sept. 16), and has hit .294/.400/.588 with two homers over those 40 plate appearances. Tommy La Stella will start at third base and hit sixth Tuesday.
Bryant went 1-for-2 with an RBI triple, walk and run in Saturday's 11-3 loss to the Brewers. The All-Star got the Cubs off to a positive start with a first-inning triple that plated Tommy La Stella, his second three-bagger of the month. Bryant also has a six-game hitting streak and has hit safely in eight of his last nine overall. However, the majority of those have been singles, and the slugger only has a total of four extra-base hits in 56 September at-bats.
Bryant is out of the lineup Friday against the Brewers. Manager Joe Maddon is resting his star players Friday, as the Cubs plan to celebrate after the game, win or lose. Tommy La Stella will get the start at third base and hit seventh Friday.