By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) It’s a holiday in Chicago, as multiple outlets reported Thursday night that Kris Bryant would make his major league debut today at Wrigley Field. Finally from his seasons on the farm, he is risen.READ MORE: Federal Disaster Team Coming To UChicago Medicine's Ingalls Memorial Hospital Amid COVID Surge; Nurse Says It's Needed, But Not Long-Term Fix
There’s some surprise involved with the decision to unveil him at home rather than in the relative quiet of, say, Monday’s game in Pittsburgh, but it speaks to both the Cubs’ immediate need for a third baseman due to Mike Olt’s injury and their confidence in Bryant’s ability and composure to make it a Friday home game.
Not only can he handle it, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are also well aware that it doesn’t really mean much. Yes, it’s a big deal that a heralded prospect is beginning what’s expected to be a successful and possibly spectacular career. The conclusion of the over-covered skirmishing between Cubs management and agent Scott Boras over his client’s free agency future also comes as a relief, despite all of the obviousness, historical precedent and transparency involved.
But it’s one day, one game. Allow baseball analyst Joe Sheehan to provide needed context, with these words from his subscription newsletter on April 14:
“Attempts to glean meaning from the performances of individuals or teams over six or seven or eight games are wasteful exercises in clickbait and confirmation bias. This is the worst part of baseball fandom in the modern age, the footballification of analysis, the insistence on stamping feet and insisting that, yes, this time is different. It’s not.”
When Friday is in the books and Bryant’s performance begins providing us with much larger amounts of useful data, we expect that barring any unforeseen events it will mirror the multiple projections that concur regarding his immediate future in the bigs. News flash: at a minimum, he’s likely to be really good.
Baseball Prospectus employs the PECOTA algorithm, which applies statistical performance likelihoods on a percentage basis. Per its preseason calculation, the very worst Bryant will do – the 10th percentile outcome – will be a slash line (batting average/on-base average/slugging percentage) of .218/.299/.430, with 20 home runs and a value of two wins over replacement. That’s the model of Bryant essentially falling flat on his face in his first year, and it’s still not entirely awful.READ MORE: Man Seriously Wounded In Shootout With University Of Chicago Police Officer In Hyde Park
If you want to be tantalized by the ceiling, go ahead, since this is the day for that too. The 90th-percentile outcomes paint the picture of an MVP candidate: .305/.403/.605 (that’s a 1.008 OPS, folks), with 36 homers and 7.8 WAR.
The weighted mean numbers conclude thusly, with Bryant a solid .265/.356/.525, hitting 28 home runs and achieving a WAR value of 4.9, numbers befitting a first baseman, even, let alone someone manning the much more important defensive corner.
Another projection system, Steamer, is used over at Fangraphs.com. It sees Bryant very similarly in its conclusions, forecasting .260/.333/.497 for Bryant’s rookie campaign, including 27 homers and a robust-enough wOBA of .361.
Bryant’s going to strike out a lot, too. PECOTA’s mean says 147 times this year and Steamer has him down for 145. It’s an understood aspect of his game’s power profile. And his defense at third is spotty at the moment, with many scouts still insisting that a move to a corner outfield spot is a matter of time for someone with his size and relative lack of lateral quickness.
An Adidas-sponsored billboard looms nearby Wrigley that features an image of the 23-year-old, already proclaiming him “Worth the Wait.”
Nothing wrong with expecting that to prove true, well after the festivities of Friday that feel like a long time coming. Kris Bryant can now get on with projecting his own future by actually playing for the Cubs.MORE NEWS: No. 22 Loyola Routs Evansville For 10th Straight Win