The Chicago Cubs are one of the best teams in baseball this season, and a big part of their success has been the emergence of several key youngsters in their lineup.
Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell have both garnered plenty of headlines, with Schwarber’s prodigious power helping spark the Cubs’ recent winning streak and Russell’s glove helping anchor down the middle of the infield for the team, but the most heralded rookie of the bunch has been third baseman Kris Bryant.
Bryant has been a hero to Cubs fans since his spring training home run binge this year, and while he hasn’t continued to club dingers at that rate, he has still had a solid season. After his two home run game against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday (his third multi-home run contest of the season), Bryant currently sits at 19 home runs and 74 RBI on the season, and he improved his batting average to .262 on the year.
With his stellar play as of late and the Cubs’ surge into serious playoff contention, there are plenty of fans and baseball experts wondering whether or not he is the favorite to win National League Rookie of the Year honors. After all, Bryant has been right in the middle of the team’s recent offensive success, and his numbers across the board certainly qualify him as a candidate.
As is usually the case, there are plenty of rookies who can make a case that they are more deserving candidates than Bryant. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson is one of the biggest contenders, with 23 home runs and a Gold Glove-caliber season in center field on his resume. His candidacy is being hampered right now with reports that he is going to be a platoon player for the time-being, as well as his anemic .214 batting average on the season.
Two other players also have good arguments to overtake Bryant in the balloting for the award. Matt Duffy of the San Francisco Giants is having a stellar year, with a .308 batting average and 59 RBI to his credit. He is also striking out at a much lower rate than Bryant, and he is a better defensive third baseman than the Cubs’ rookie.
Jung Ho Kang of the Pittsburgh Pirates is another viable candidate, with a .290 batting average, 12 home runs, and 46 RBI on the season. He has also shown some serious ability at both shortstop and third base for the Pirates as they continue to lead the Cubs by three games for the NL’s top wild card seed.
Even with those numbers in mind, we’ll have to go with Bryant as the current favorite for Rookie of the Year honors. His strikeout totals are worrisome, and he isn’t the best defensive third baseman in the league, but his power numbers have been solid, and the way he has adjusted to big league pitchers has been hope-inspiring for Cubs fans.
There are still 40 games or so left in the year for him to make his case, but judging by his current resume, he has just as good a shot as anyone to become the Cubs’ first Rookie of the Year since Geovany Soto won the award in 2008.