The Cubs have a really lefty-heavy outfield and didn’t do much in free agency to balance it out, so they’re going to have to rely on positional flexibility yet again. That could mean Nico Hoerner seeing a little time in center, but more likely means Kris Bryant flexing out to left field from time to time.
Even with Joc Pederson being given the chance to play every day, there will be times when it makes sense to rest him against a tough lefty. Since Bryant hits lefties exceedingly well and has shown himself capable of handling the corner outfield spots, he is an easy option to fill in.
“KB, to me, multiple times has said he’s fine. He likes to move around,” David Ross told reporters on Thursday. “He’s fine with playing the outfield. And maybe it’s just what you tell the manager, but he’s pretty comfortable out there. He actually was here getting some reps the other day in some downtime in the outfield.
“So he understands that anything can happen. Roster, injuries, there’s a lot of things that can happen. We’re definitely left-handed heavy out in the outfield, so he understands, if there’s a tough matchup that we’ve got other positions that we can fill in the infield from the right side, that pushes him to the outfield at times.”
Bryant has logged nearly 1,100 innings between all three outfield spots over the last six seasons, with roughly 60% of that experience coming in left. For what it’s worth, and because I love sharing the story, Bryant’s first outfield appearance as a Cub came on April 22, 2015 on a snowy afternoon in Pittsburgh. I’ll never forget it because I watched the game with Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella.
In any case, all four of Bryant’s outfield starts last season were in left, but only one of those came after he hurt his left wrist and ring finger on a diving attempt against the Indians on August 12. Though he homered in his very next at-bat, the injury hampered him for the rest of the season.
Now fully healthy, Bryant is ready to prove his forgettable 2020 campaign should indeed be forgotten. A big part of that is simply having a full spring training to get his timing down and prepare for the season ahead, but he’s also made a slight swing adjustment that will probably go unnoticed unless you look really closely at a still shot of his batting stance from the side view.
Bryant is loading just a little bit more heavily into his back leg, which should allow him to get started a skosh earlier. It also means generating more momentum in the lower half and increasing his bat speed ever so slightly. Catching up to high heat is a difficult task for just about any hitter and it’s nearly impossible when you’re hitting with a bum wrist, so being healthy and implementing this tweak should have a positive impact.
We’ve already seen that the prodigious power is still there in BP, now it’s just a matter of time before it manifests in live game action.