As recently as just a few days ago, my colleague Matt Snyder -- plausibly and defensibly -- put Cubs third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant second in his National League MVP Power Rankings. He was one spot behind teammate Anthony Rizzo. In related matters, a team that's on pace for 103 wins, as the Cubs are, are almost necessarily going to have multiple MVP candidates.
Anyhow, this author would submit that in a matter of mere days, Bryant has not only passed Rizzo on the list of top NL MVP aspirants, but also put some distance between himself and the rest of the fray. Since the start of play on Thursday, Bryant's notched a 5-for-5, two-homer performance against the Brewers, tallied three hits in the series opener in Colorado, and then authored this clout on Saturday in Coors Field ...
And the people say: "Larduhmercy." Some digits on that mighty clout ...
Kris Bryant just hit a baseball 469ft... 108 MPH off the bat. Wow.— Daren Willman (@darenw) August 21, 2016
Authoritative, is what that was. Bryant continues to lead the NL in homers and total bases. As well, his work on Saturday lifted his 2016 batting line to .301/.394/.569. He's played in all but three of the Cubs' games this season, and he's on pace top 80 extra-base hits and approach 350 total bases.
Of course, Bryant is more than "merely" one of the best bats in baseball. He also adds value on bases. Yes, he steals a bag every now and then, and this season he's taken the extra base an outstanding 54 percent of the time.
There's more, though. As Dave Cameron of FanGraphs recently noted, Bryant is also staying out of the double play at an almost historic rate (he's grounded into just three all year).
And then there's his defense. Bryant, in keeping with Joe Maddon's prevailing "Swiss Army Knife" philosophy of deployment, has seen time at six different positions this season and spent significant time at third base and in left and right fields. Per the numbers and the eye test, Bryant's been an asset at each of those spots.
Bundle all that value together, and you've got player who's poised to make run at a 9.0-WAR season. That's MVP-caliber and then some.
You may counter-argue, of course. One might point to the fact that Bryant has seen his numbers decline in high-leverage situations and with runners on base and in scoring position. This is nothing but random noise borne of small sample size (for instance, Bryant had good clutch numbers in 2015), but it's justifiable to take clutch indicators into account for purposes of the MVP. Of course, almost half of the Cubs' wins this season have come by five or more runs, so the tight spots have been a little harder to come by. Bryant's pole-to-pole excellence has much to do with that.
This recent run of his -- 10 for his last 16 with three homers -- has reframed the award discussion to an extent. The situation remains fluid, yes, but Bryant's probably out in front on most mental ballots right now. Given what he's done over his brief MLB career, don't be surprised if that remains the case.
And if it does come to pass? Well ...
Not a bad set of hardware for a 24-year-old.