Kris Bryant Continues to Hit by Jarod Bacon July 9, 2016 Ever since he was taken with the second pick in the 2013 draft, the spotlight has continually followed Kris Bryant. After mashing his way through the minors in less than two years, Bryant had a spectacular rookie season with a slash line of .275/.369/.488 with 26 homers and a 136 wRC+. Deservedly, he was rewarded with the NL Rookie of the Year award. Although he did strike out over 30 percent of the time, he showed great plate discipline along with immense power. His 6.5 WAR ranked 10th among major league hitters. However, this year he has taken his production a step further. With his league-leading 25 home runs to go along with his slash line of .278/.370/.578, one major change sticks out. Although his average and on-base percentage remain around the same as his 2015 totals, his slugging percentage has taken a huge jump. Halfway through the season, he is one home run shy of last year’s total and around half of his hits have gone for extra bases (44 out of 87). He’s also cut down on his strikeouts while making even more hard contact than he did last year — shown by his 42% hard-hit rate which will allow him to continue to tap into his power. One noticeable change sticks out in his batted-ball profile. Although his ground-ball, line-drive, and fly-ball rates remain relatively constant, Bryant has pulled the ball more in his second big-league season. This has caused more of his fly balls to leave the park. Taking a look at his 2016 home-run spray chart, you can see that all of his home runs have been pulled. Source: FanGraphs Next take a look at his 2015 home-run spray chart. Source: FanGraphs Most of his home runs have been in the same general area with the exception of a few opposite-field home runs to right. Since he has been pulling the ball with more authority in 2016, the balls that he pulls in this sweet spot to left will allow him to continue to leave the yard at a ridiculous rate. With his picturesque swing to go along with his strong hands and 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame, swings like this …will continue to be common for Cubs fans to see from Kris Bryant. However, it would be foolish to simply call Bryant a home-run hitter when in fact what makes him so special is his all-around hitting ability to go with this insane power. He walks, hits the ball hard, and his only flaw is his propensity to strike out — and even that he has improved upon this year. A two-time All Star already with 4.3 WAR this season, he ranks fourth among major-league hitters and first among NL hitters in WAR while also possessing a 149 wRC+. At this point, if the NL MVP is going to go to a player not named Clayton Kershaw, Kris Bryant deserves to be the one holding up the trophy. But the trophy most important to him is the one won at the end of October. With the Cubs holding a comfortable lead atop the NL Central, Bryant looks destined to lead them on a deep playoff run with the hope of finally shattering their 108-year-old curse.