Batter’s Box: Beauty Is in the Eye of the Bryant

Jim Chatterton explores Friday's top hitters including Kris Bryant's beautiful eyes.

In June of 2018, Kris Bryant landed on the DL with a shoulder injury. Since his return in July (including another DL stint for the same injury) Bryant put up four home runs in 146 plate appearances with a .416 slugging. The year prior, he hit nearly 30 homers with a .537 slugging. Many worried this shoulder injury sapped Bryant of his power. We’ve seen that happen in other players as well. Around the same time, we were watching the slow recovery of Michael Conforto and his shoulder injury. His power was run dry but rebuilt throughout his 2018 campaign, unleashing in the second half. Bryant finished up the 2018 season looking to take the offseason to fully recover and be back to himself for 2019.

In his first 99 plate appearances, Bryant had us worried. He still wasn’t hitting for power (one home run) and was struggling to get any kind of hit. However, on April 26th, he settled in and something clicked. In those 19 games, he has hit 10 homers while slugging .822 and walking more than striking out. This includes last night’s explosion of 4-6, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI. He’s no longer hitting the ball on the ground, going from a 40% ground ball rate in the first 99 plate appearances to a 26.7% ground ball rate. He’s making almost no weak contact while increasing his solid contact and barrel rate. Bryant looks to be fully healthy but unfortunately, the buy low window has flown right by you.

Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees) —3-4, R, HR, RBI. Voit has now put together as many plate appearances as last year. Has he kept up his monster pace? In some ways, yes. His home run, run, and RBI totals are not far off at all. However, his average, OBP, and SLG all took a step back. Looking closer though, it’s a matter of a few at-bats, a few extra singles, and few more home runs. Nothing major. Voit has remained a fantasy force.

Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets) —2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. A lot of Voit and Alonso comparisons were thrown around at the beginning of the season, NY power-hitting first basemen out to prove themselves. They both have. They also have crazy similar stat lines too. Alonso delivered yet another opposite field 417 foot home run. That seems to be all he does, as 10 of his 14 have been right of center.

Jorge Alfaro (C, Miami Marlins) —2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Speaking of power, Alfaro got to show the five fans in Miami was he’s got. He blasted a 456 foot shot to dead center off Jacob deGrom. Alfaro is doing more of what he did last year; strike out over 40% of the time and hit the occasional home run. His Zone% is the lowest in the league and that is because his O-Swing% is the highest. If he wants pitches to hit, he has to stop swinging at bad pitches.

Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox) —3-4, R, SB. Bogaerts swiped his first bag of the season last night. He usually ends the season in the teens and he’ll probably get there. He’s had plenty of opportunities. So far in May his OBP is .406 while walking more than striking out. His season OBP is at .374 but with a career-high walk rate. He’s still hitting for decent power as well. It’s another transformative step in Bogaerts’ hitting.

Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) —2-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, RBI. Like Yelich, it’s hard to ignore him when he has a dominant performance even though it seems like it happens every other day. I don’t know when ‘.400 Watch’ officially begins but this 2-4 performance pushes the seemingly inevitable drop below the threshold by a bit.

Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves) —3-4, 2 R, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. Another superstar doing superstar things. But the thing to call out for Acuna is his recent move to the leadoff spot. The Braves removed Albies from the leadoff spot dropping him to the back of the lineup letting Acuna take over the top spot. In those few games, he’s getting on base and scoring runs as he usually does. If he stays in this spot, expect an increase in runs and drop in RBIs but overall not much change in production.

Tyler Flowers (C, Atlanta Braves) —3-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. Flowers has been getting decent playing time in a split catcher role while also performing well. Don’t let it deceive you. He’s missed some games with a hand injury but McCann has almost as many plate appearances as Flowers this year. In these starts, Flowers has put up a nearly .300 batting average, however his xBA is hovering around .220. That is a drastic drop. With that concern and some split playing time, Flowers isn’t worth it.

Harrison Bader (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) —3-4, 2 R, HR, RBI. Bader hadn’t made a start in ten games until last night. He took full advantage of the playing time hitting one out of the park. For now, we will have to wait on the Cardinals to see how they handle Bader. He first needs the consistent playing time again and then he needs to put things together offensively to convince us he’s worth a roster spot.

Shin-soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers) —2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. First, a friendly reminder Rougned Odor went yard again. Hot streak beginning early? Now let’s board the Choo Choo train. A leadoff hitter with Gallo hitting behind you with a .400 OBP? That’s a recipe for runs. And Choo has whipped us up plenty. Additionally, Choo is hitting the ball the hardest he has in a while.

Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs) —4-5, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Contreras continues his rebound season surpassing his season total for home runs from last year. He’s hitting the ball harder and getting the ball off the ground. He has been seeing a significant amount of pitches out of the zone which he’s prone to chase. He’s not making as much contact as usual as well. I’d expect his performance to take a step back but still have plenty of value for the catcher position.

Danny Jansen (C, Toronto Blue Jays) —2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Jansen was one of those prospects starting the season in the majors with lots of expectations. He’s been by far the largest under-performer. His home run last night was his first of the year traveling 407 feet. He’s still hitting below .200 and striking out too much. He’s just not hitting in the slightest. Hopefully, this game has turned him around.

Bryan Reynolds (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) —2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. At the lower end of the top ten in the Pirates prospect rankings, this Pirate rookie doesn’t have the fanfare as most other rookie call ups this season. Despite this, Reynolds has put together a fine start to the season hitting above .300 through his first 22 games. Reynolds is chasing at pitches out of the zone over 40% of the time and will need to gain some plate discipline before becoming a solid player as his power won’t be able to carry him.

(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

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