Kris Bryant's shoulder injury has zapped his power and may ultimately wreck his season
Bryant is on the DL for the second time with a left shoulder injury
On Thursday, the Cubs placed third baseman Kris Bryant on the disabled list for the second time in recent weeks with left shoulder inflammation. It's gotten to the point that there have to be legitimate concerns about what he can offer the rest of the way.
Bryant's an outstanding all-around player, but he really loses his luster when he can't hit the ball out of the yard. Leading up to his first shoulder-related DL stint, he had hit one home run in his previously 32 games and was slugging .382 in that stretch. He had basically become a singles hitter due to his shoulder woes.
Upon his return, he appeared to be "back" with this shot off Johnny Cueto in AT&T Park:
In his next nine games, however, Bryant hit .257 with one homer and a .371 slugging percentage. On Monday, he especially looked feeble at the plate, going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, a weak ground out and a routine fly out. He just looked wrong.
Now look at Bryant's slash line compared to his last two seasons:
The power dip is most noticeable and it's mostly in home runs. In his 2016 MVP season, Bryant clubbed 39 homers, or one every 15.5 at-bats. This season he's homered just once every 27.6 at-bats. He homered in 2016 on 14.7 percent of his fly balls and this season it's just 8.5 percent.
The shoulder injury has zapped his power. The Cubs went through something similar with Ben Zobrist's wrist last season; he played much better in 2016 and 2018.
Also, remember fellow Vegas star Bryce Harper was hampered by a shoulder injury in 2016. Check out the seasons before and after Harper's shoulder-hampered campaign:
It's July 27, so we're getting into the territory that it's a legitimate concern Bryant's shoulder will wreck his season. It's already done some pretty heavy damage, as noted above. Further concern is that Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that Bryant was changing his swing in order to compensate for the injury. Via cubs.com:
"He was attempting to control his finish differently," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He may have been doing things subconsciously prior to us putting him on the DL, but then he intentionally tried to restructure a bit after it became more noticeable to him. Moving forward -- you know how he finishes so long with the one-arm finish -- there was some concern that was part of the issue. "
Bryant has gotten an MRI and the Cubs will probably release the results here in the next few days. If there's no structural damage, Bryant likely stays shut down for a few weeks before a minor-league rehab assignment and then he'll attempt to return again, because he's a big-time competitor.
In the meantime, the Cubs will continue to use some combination of David Bote and Ian Happ at third base. Both are quality players with good upside. Neither is remotely close to Kris Bryant when he's 100 percent.
The good news here is the Cubs have the best record in the National League and haven't gotten Bryant's best (or Anthony Rizzo's, for that matter). Still, there's legitimate concern that the Cubs' best player from 2016-17 won't be right for the rest of 2018.
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