Give me a Kris to build a dream on,
And my imagination will thrive upon that Kris,
Sweetheart, I ask no more than this,
A Kris to build a dream on
Nothing like kickin’ it off old school with a little Satchmo (with, uh, alternate lyrics). Hello all, and welcome to the return of the Bear or Bull series. In honor of Easter season, the powers that be have decided to resurrect yet another tried-and-true Razzball favorite and have placed it’s fate into the hands of yours truly. Big mistake. I mean, good call! The concept is simple. Each week, I’ll be highlighting a certain player and creating a framework of where he is trending in fantasy terms. Think of it as the Offseason Stock Report series but in-season and with animals. After some background analysis, number crunching, and perhaps a player comp or two, I’ll reveal whether I’m Bearish (pessimistic) or Bullish (optimistic) on the player in question. Cause everyone loves Rocky Mountain oysters, right? Right? Moving on…
From the title of this post to the somewhat altered Louis Armstrong lyrics in the opening, you may have guessed that the player that will be going under the microscope today is none other than Chicago Cubs uber-prospect Kris Bryant. In case you haven’t been paying attention to spring training this year, Bryant has been absolutely destroying the ball in Cactus League play. His 9 home runs (in just 44 PA) lead the league while his 1.652 OPS is tops among players who have logged more than a dozen plate appearances. While it’s prudent to take ST statistics with a few grains of salt, those gaudy numbers are hard to ignore.
And based on recent ADP data, Bryant’s spring results certainly aren’t being ignored by fantasy owners. His ESPN ADP has risen by almost a full round over the past week, and he’s been selected in the 4th-6th round range in the majority of recent drafts that I’ve participated in. It seems as though a large number of people are building their championship dreams on rosters featuring Bryant as a core contributor. But what kind of production should be expected from a player who hasn’t even played in a single major league game in his young career?
How about a good old-fashioned player comparison? Bryant is a rare young talent with a unique skill set, but there’s another young player who immediately sprung (pun intended) to mind when attempting to identify an accurate comp for him: George Springer. Similar in age (25 to 23), size (6-3/205 to 6-5/215), pedigree (both high 1st round draft picks), and skill sets (namely power), Springer and Bryant seem to have a lot in common.
Let’s compare Bryant’s 2014 AAA stats with Springer’s 2013 AAA numbers and see if we’re on the right track:
|Kris Bryant||Cubs (AAA)||22||297||14.50%||28.60%||0.295||0.418||0.619||0.324||0.367||0.439||164|
|George Springer||Astros (AAA)||23||266||15.40%||24.40%||0.311||0.425||0.626||0.315||0.362||0.453||175|
The offensive numbers produced by these two players are practically identical. Does that mean that they can be expected to produce identical results in the big leagues? Not necessarily. But it makes for a promising comparison.
Now let’s see how Springer fared in 2014 during his first MLB season:
The biggest concern about Bryant is his tendency to strikeout at a high rate. You can see from these tables that Springer’s K% jumped from 24.4% in his last season in AAA to 33% in his rookie season in MLB. Bryant’s was even higher than Springer’s at similar points in their developmental processes.
While there are a few things to be concerned about regarding Bryant in terms of his fantasy prospects for this season (high K-rate, missing at least the first two weeks of the MLB season to delay his arbitration clock), he possesses rare power in an environment which is lacking in that area. In dynasty leagues, lock him up early on and enjoy the ride. In redraft leagues, pay for a .260ish average with 25+ homers in around 135 games, and you could still make a profit.