Ask a Bleacher Bum who AAA third baseman Kris Bryant reminds them of, and the answer you’ll get through their beer-laden breath would be along the lines of “Babe Ruth,” “Superman,” and “Jesus.” Believe it or not, none of those comparisons are much of a stretch after the numbers Bryant put up for the AA Tennessee Smokies before being promoted to AAA Iowa on June 16. Through June 14, Bryant has 9 more home runs (22 total) than the next guy in the Southern League, a .032 higher batting average (.352), and a .106 higher slugging percentage (.709). He has been in the Cubs’ organization for less than a year, and there is already chatter in the bleachers about whether or not Bryant should be called up—not just to AAA, to the majors. The question—as it always is with young prospects—is just how good can he really become?

The first step in finding that answer is to find a measurable comparison. We can’t use Babe Ruth or Jesus for this one but we’ll look no further than Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, and former MLB journeyman and the pride and joy of the AARP Rec-League Softball All-Stars, Troy Glaus[1]. Let’s compare their numbers in AA, compared to Bryant’s:

Name Average On Base % Slugging % OPS Home Runs RBI Strikeout Rate
Giancarlo Stanton .263 .365 .562 .927 37 105 26.16%
Paul Goldschmidt .306 .435 .626 1.061 30 94 20.13%
Troy Glaus .305 .430 .670 1.100 19 53 17.35%
Kris Bryant .358 .462 .713 1.174 22 57 26.22%

Now let’s look at those players’ major league stats adjusted to match the same amount of time each player spent in AA, meaning if a player had 100 career AA at-bats and 500 major league at-bats, then the amount of home runs on the below table would be 1/5 of their major league total:

Name Batting Average On Base % Slugging % OPS Home Runs RBI Strikeout Rate
Giancarlo Stanton .270 .350 .543 .902 33 88 28.14%
Paul Goldschmidt .293 .375 .525 .900 20 72 22.25%
Troy Glaus .254 .358 .489 .847 12 34 18.15%

Now take a look at the percent decrease (or increase) from their AA stats to their major league numbers:

Name Batting Average On Base % Slugging % OPS Home Runs RBI Strikeout Rate
Giancarlo Stanton 2.67% increase 4.1% decrease 3.4% decrease 2.7% decrease 10.8% decrease 16.2% decrease 7.4% increase
Paul Goldschmidt 4.4% decrease 16% decrease 19.2% decrease 17.9% decrease 50% decrease 30.6% decrease 9.5% increase
Troy Glaus 20% decrease 18.6% decrease 37% decrease 29.9% decrease 58.3% decrease 55.9% decrease 4.4% increase

Here is the average change for each of the above statistical categories:

Batting Average On Base % Slugging % OPS Home Runs RBI Strikeout Rate
7.24% decrease 12.8% decrease 19.9% decrease 16.83% decrease 39.7% decrease 34.2% decrease 7.1% increase

But Bryant’s numbers are going to decrease even more than that. Not because he doesn’t have the skill, but because it simply isn’t possible to keep hitting at the pace he is, hitting a home run once every three games. Nobody can keep that up, so to account for the predictable decline, we’ll add 5% decline to each category on top of the average decline, to be extra conservative. Using the new numbers, here are his projections for a full MLB season:

Batting Average On Base % Slugging % OPS Home Runs RBI Strikeout Rate
.314 .379 .535 .918 32 93 29.4%

Those are the numbers of an all-star. The numbers of someone whose jersey adorns the Cubbie faithful. The numbers that finally take us to the promised land.

Those numbers are one call away from Jed Hoyer making them reality.

You see, that’s the problem with baseball and projecting prospects. We can try to figure out how a players’ career will turn out. We can use advanced formulas, simple ones, or no other measurement except a gut instinct and 60% of the time the projections are way off.

I think that going through Stanton and Glaus and Goldschmidt’s numbers can help shed light on Bryant’s future. I think that those projected numbers are close to what Bryant will put up at the Major League level. But I don’t know it. There’s no way to know.

That’s because of all of baseball that has nothing to do with a bat, a ball, or a glove. It can be something immeasurable like what goes on in a player’s head. Or it could be caused by injuries. Or it may be inexplicable. But whatever the reason, minor league success doesn’t always translate to the major leagues. When it comes to projecting minor leaguers, no matter what you do, however many tables you make, it’s a guess. A shot in the dark.

Kris Bryant is the latest of countless Cubs' saviors. This time, I think he's the real deal. (I said that about Kosuke Fukudome, by the way.)
Kris Bryant is the latest of countless Cubs’ saviors. This time, I think he’s the real deal. (I said that about Kosuke Fukudome, by the way.)

And if you think that’s going to stop Cubs’ fans from sending each other giddy texts as soon as the news breaks that Bryant was promoted to AAA, then you don’t understand one thing about Cub fans.

We aren’t rational.

The exact opposite, really.

Time after time, Cub fans get fooled.

Ernie Banks was supposed to bring the North Side a pennant.

Then it was Ryne Sandberg.

Then Sammy Sosa.

Every one of them failed. So did countless others, too many to put down on paper.

And every time anybody tells us that there’s somebody that can finally be that savior we’re searching for, we chug the Kool Aid.

charlie-brown-football-kick-o

And this year, Kris Byrant is the savior. He’s who’s going to hit .314 with 31 home runs, anchor the team, and win the 2017 World Series.

So when the half-drunk Bleacher Bum answers your question with “Jesus,” he isn’t joking.

The Cubs are our religion. A championship is our heaven. Wrigley is our church.

The savior has been prophesied.

Kris Bryant is our Jesus.


[1] Stanton, Glaus, and Goldscmidt were chosen since they are the three most common names listed by scouts as major league comparisons to Bryant.

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