In a season that only saw Kris Bryant appear in 102 games and start 99, his fewest amounts in both categories in his entire four-year career, his numbers suffered as well. Career-lows of a .272 average, 48 walks, 52 RBIs, 13 home runs and 106 hits all dominated his 2018 season, one that ended in disappointing fashion and defeat at the hands of the Colorado Rockies in the National League Wild Card round.
The 27-year-old, who is going into his fifth season as the starting third baseman for the Chicago Cubs, should have 2019 circled in bright red marker as for when he makes a return back to stardom. Barring any lingering injuries or new ones that show up, he should not have an issue returning to his old self, one of a regular All-Star Game player and someone who was knocking on the door of his second MVP.
After winning the NL MVP award in 2016 in only his second season, Bryant has seesawed between better and worse numbers from his MVP season, never getting back to those levels. His supporting cast of fellow infielders, outfielders and pitchers can easily help him get back to earning an MVP and helping the Cubs completely erase all memories of how they crumbled during the back-half of the 2018 season.
At the moment, the starting infield with Bryant penciled in at third base goes Bryant, slick-fielder Javier Baez at shortstop due to the impending legal actions against incumbent shortstop Addison Russell, trade-rumor subject Ben Zobrist and slugger Anthony Rizzo. This infield is one of the best in the NL if not the entire league, but health issues have prevented them all from being on the diamond at the same time.
If a resolution is met in regards to Russell, then he would slot into shortstop most likely, pushing Zobrist to the bench or the outfield with Baez moving back to his original position of second base. Zobrist has the positional flexibility to play the outfield, best suited for left or right field.
Bryant’s role in the Cubs’ offense is key as well, as it helps open up opportunities for others while helping protect Rizzo in the middle. Bryant is an offensive juggernaut who hits for a high average when healthy, and while he has hit 107 home runs while in the majors, he is more known for being a contact and a doubles guy, which plays to the strength of having Rizzo hit behind him in the cleanup spot.
The main issue holding Bryant back is his injury history, but if he can overcome that, he has a clear path to regaining his MVP form again in 2019. The Cubs, who will be hungry to avenge last season, will be better shaped to handle Bryant being integrated back into the lineup, but they also have coverage for him if he is out, as seen last year with Baez moving over to the hot corner in Bryant’s absence.
Bryant is known superstar in the league that has been beset with injuries recently. If he is able to stay healthy, especially throughout spring training, then start picking out his nameplate for the 2019 NL MVP.