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Cubs expecting Kris Bryant to fuel power surge

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Cubs expecting Kris Bryant to fuel power surge

ST. LOUIS — The Cubs built their team around power hitters at a time when the game is tilting toward power pitching. 

Kris Bryant — a 6-foot-5 slugger, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft and Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect heading into this season — became a huge part of that against-the-grain philosophy. 

Despite generating only 20 home runs through 24 games — with no three-run shots or grand slams — the Cubs still woke up on Cinco de Mayo with a decent chance of making the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus set the odds at 52.9 percent, while FanGraphs crunched the numbers and came up with 47.2 percent.

[SHOP: Get a Kris Bryant jersey here]

The Cubs believe Bryant — who still hasn’t homered in his first 17 games in The Show — will fuel that power surge this summer.

“There’s more to the game than just hitting home runs,” Bryant said. “Especially nowadays, a lot is being said about getting on base and on-base percentage. I just try to be the complete player and help the team win in any way possible. If I’m on base, then I’m giving my team a chance.”

Bryant showed that again during Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. He produced an RBI single in the fifth inning and then hustled to score from second base when the Cardinals couldn’t complete a double play. He also struck out twice and committed a fielding error at third base.

The night before, the Cardinals walked Bryant four times, a sign of respect for someone who blasted 43 homers in the minors last season. He’s hitting .283 with 16 walks, 12 RBI and an .808 OPS since his much-publicized promotion from Triple-A Iowa.

“For a young player, having your reputation precede you is incredible,” manager Joe Maddon said. “With the way data is collected and videos are processed and put out there, that information probably would have taken at least three weeks to a month a couple years ago to get all that stuff out there. But it’s out there like immediately, so everybody’s been playing the same game.”

It will be like this for all the young hitters the Cubs are trying to incorporate at once. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein watched his team strike out 37 times in the last series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

“Joe said it well: They’re not all going to be oil paintings,” Epstein said. “I think we had a couple moments this weekend that were Pollocks.”

[MORE: Kyle Hendricks searching for answers after Cardinals expose Cubs]

Jackson Pollock could probably put together an interesting heat map.

“It’s part of the growth process,” Epstein said. “There are going to be these reminders of how raw we are in certain aspects. And then the league will adjust to young players and then young players have to adjust back.

“They’re still figuring out who they are as players and still getting their foundation underneath them as big-league players. Yet they have to adjust to very targeted attacks from the other team. That’s what makes it fun. We’re young and talented and embracing the struggle.”

That’s not to say Bryant is actually struggling.

“If he keeps on-basing .450, I’ll be pretty happy,” general manager Jed Hoyer. “He’s done an unbelievable job of staying patient (and) it shows a lot of maturity. I think most 23-year-olds would be frustrated, swinging to try to get that monkey off their back. He hasn’t done that. I’m not worried at all. He’s too big and too strong and too good of a hitter to not hit a lot of homers.”

Rob Manfred apologizes for tone-deaf comment about World Series trophy

Rob Manfred apologizes for tone-deaf comment about World Series trophy

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made a tone-deaf comment over the weekend, and he apologized for it on Tuesday.

In an interview with ESPN, Manfred defended his decision not to punish Astros players for their involvement in Houston’s sign stealing scandal. Although MLB suspended (now former) Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow and fined the club $5 million, players received immunity in the case. 

Some — like Cubs starter Yu Darvish — have called for Manfred to strip the Astros of their 2017 championship.

"The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” Manfred told ESPN’s Karl Ravech. “People will always know that something was different about the 2017 season, and whether we made that decision right or wrong, we undertook a thorough investigation, and had the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty."

Lol.

It’s one thing to let the Astros off with a mere slap on the wrist but degrading the value of a championship trophy — one which all players strive to secure one day — was purely ignorant by Manfred. 

RELATED: Jon Lester crushes Rob Manfred for devaluing World Series trophy 'quite significantly'

There was a more tactful way for Manfred to respond to the lack of punishment. He told Ravech the MLB Players Association likely would've filed grievances, had the league disciplined the players. That defense may not have totally sufficed, but it's far more reasonable than Manfred's piece of metal comment.

Yes, Manfred was looking to make a rhetorical point. But seemingly everyone in baseball is pissed at the lack of punishment for the Astros. Rather than put out the fire, Manfred and MLB have only doused it with kerosene. 

Cubs Talk Podcast: Do the Cubs still have a shot at the division?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Do the Cubs still have a shot at the division?

Despite a disappointing offseason the Cubs still have a competitive team for the 2020 season. David Kaplan and an NBCS Chicago Cubs content team roundtable of Jeff Nelson, Tim Stebbins and Danny Rockett discuss how they see this team performing in 2020 and the subtle jabs at former manager Joe Maddon.

(1:30) - Where is the excitement level for the 2020 season

(4:14) - Cubs might perform better than expected this year

(9:09) - Theo Epstein telling managerial candidates Cubs will take a step back in 2020

(14:00) - Cubs still have to reset this year financially

(17:20) - Theo vs. Joe

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

 

Cubs Talk Podcast

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