Forgive the click-bait-y headline; that was coworker Heath Cummings' idea, much to Scott White's chagrin. Still, it's interesting that Kris Bryant, widely considered to be the best power hitting prospect since probably Giancarlo Stanton, has gone 15 games without hitting a homer since making his major-league debut.
That isn't necessarily indicative of anything, as even the best power hitters will be expected to go 15 games without a home run at some+ point; Stanton had a stretch like that last June, followed by a 10-game homerless stretch immediately after. Slumps happen, and they don't necessarily mean anything.
But maybe you invested a high pick in Bryant -- he went as high as 38th in CBSSports.com H2H leagues, and snuck into the third round in one Roto league -- and are starting to wonder where all this power you were promised is. Fantasy owners aren't exactly the most patient species of sports fan, but I promise you, the power is coming.
Coming up through the minors, Bryant deposited one over the wall once every 3.3 games, and it wasn't just because of his raw power. Though Bryant, standing 6'5" and weighing in at 215 pounds, does have considerable raw power -- an 80 on the scouting scale -- that wasn't what made him so dangerous. Lots of players have raw power to hit 30 homers, but not every player has Bryant's approach at the plate.
Minor-league play-by-play and batted-ball data isn't perfect, but some trends are too clear to ignore, with Bryant's flyball tendencies a perfect example. There might be some noise involved at this level, but Bryant consistently put the ball in the air a on in the minors, with MinorLeagueCentral.com showing 45.8 percent of his batted balls as outfield fly balls.
So, not only does Bryant hit the ball far, he hits it in the air a ton, at least in the minors. That is, it goes without saying, a recipe for success, assuming you define success as "A whole bunch of homers." And, through the first 15 games of his major-league career, the batted-ball data has held true as well. He has 19 fly balls on 35 balls in play, giving him a 54.3 fly ball percentage that would rank third in baseball if he qualified.
The average major-league hitter put 10.4 percent of his fly balls over the fend in the month of April; Bryant's mark was a decidedly less impressive zero percent. Even if we assume Bryant has just average raw power, we would still have expected him to hit two home runs on 19 fly balls.
So what? Maybe he just doesn't hit the ball very hard; a high fly ball rate is no guarantee of robust power numbers, as Stephen Drew's career can attest. After all, Drew ranks near the top of the leaderboard in fly ball percentage, and he hasn't reached 15 home runs in a season since 2010.
This is where the new batted-ball data from Statcast can come in handy. Per BaseballSavant.com, which keeps track of such things through MLB Gameday feeds, Drew ranks just 237th out of 272 batters in average batted-ball velocity, at 85.4 MPH.
Bryant, on the other hand, has no such issues. He hasn't displayed elite batted-ball velocity so far, ranking 87th in the league, between Brad Miller and Salvador Perez. However, it isn't like he's among the dregs of the league here; he comes in at the 68th percentile, well above average.
More importantly, Bryant also ranks fifth in average batted ball distance, at 219.8 feet. The only players ahead of him are Joc Pederson, Scott Van Slyke, Freddie Freeman and Justin Turner, who collectively have an 18.4 HR/FB ratio on the season. So, clearly, Bryant has had some bad luck.
Like, when you crush a pair of balls 104 and 106 MPH and end up with a double and a triple off the wall, respectively.
While, the snarky among you might point out that those two balls are the definition of warning track power, I would point out that the second almost certainly goes out in Wrigley -- he hit the furthest part of the kink out in right field -- and the second was hit 390 feet to left-center, and could have been out in a handful of other parks.
Bryant's lack of over-the-fence power has been more about location than anything else. We're going to see some of these doubles soar over the fence before long, so don't worry. Bryant has all of the tools to be one of, if not the best, power hitters in the game, and not much has changed since we were all losing our collective minds in the spring.
Just for fun, I decided to ask our our Fantasy baseball writers for their prediction on when Bryant finally clubs his first home run:
- Scott White - May 5, at Cardinals
- Al Melchior - May 8, at Brewers
- Heath Cummings - May 11 vs. Mets
As for me, I say Bryant's due, and will take Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez deep in the first inning tonight.