Kris Bryant — the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and 2016 MVP with 105 home runs already to his name before even turning 27 — believes he will have more power in his swing when he returns from his left shoulder injury.
Which may be soon, by the way.
Bryant took batting practice on the field Saturday, showing off his new two-handed finish to his swing that he believes will create more power. He will take live BP against teammate Drew Smyly — who is rehabbing from Tommy John — Sunday and then may head out on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues as early as Monday.
"I felt good today, so ready to go," said Bryant, who hit a ball off the Wrigley Field video board in left and even took a couple swings left-handed to mess around — "I was trying to be like Rizz."
There is no set timetable for when Bryant will return and the Cubs aren't giving him a mandate of a certain amount of at-bats he needs to get after missing more than a month. It will all be based on how he feels.
If all goes well, the Cubs could have their superstar back in the lineup late next week, in the final days of August or first couple days of September.
That would be a huge boost to this team both mentally and tactically.
"Just like [Daniel Murphy] walking in the door — you get a really good player back in your lineup; it makes a difference," Joe Maddon said. "It lengthens the lineup. All of a sudden, you look at these names and wow. You're placing guys farther down below that had been maybe a bit higher based on the thickness of the lineup.
"Obviously it's always a good thing. Now, having been out for a bit, when [Bryant] does come back, I don't want to expect everything out of him, either. I want him to just go ahead and play and we'll take what happens after that. It'll be interesting.
"I think he looks great right now, actually. Go play, get your ABs and whenever that right moment [to return] occurs, it'll occur."
Maddon said he's more worried about Bryant's body being sore after having nearly five weeks off without any game action.
When Bryant does get into game action in the minor leagues and then again back with the big-league club, it will be interesting to see if he keeps his new two-handed follow-through on the swing. After all, he's taken countless swings finishing with one hand, so it'd only be natural if his body went back to the way it was conditioned for so many years.
It was devised as a way to limit the wear and tear on his left shoulder, which took the brunt of the pressure of his long arms and powerful swing on its own as he finished high with the right hand coming off the bat. Even if he goes back to the natural way he's always finished his swing with the one hand during games, he's still going to keep the two-handed approach in practice.
Bryant initially injured his shoulder on a slide in late May and believes he exacerbated the issue by taking too many swings in the cages in trying to get out of his slump. The hope is the two-handed finish should reduce the chance of that happening again, regardless of how many swings he takes in practice.
He compared it to a golf swing (golfers almost never let go of the club with one hand like baseball players do) and pointed to how Anthony Rizzo uses a two-handed finish and still generates power.
"It feels good," Bryant said. "I feel a lot more powerful. I feel like I'm hitting the ball farther."
Bryant compared this change to when he widened his stance during his sopohomore year in college, a move he called a "gamechanger" for the swing that helped him become the No. 2 overall pick.
More power would be huge considering his lack of power was a major talking point before he revealed the shoulder injury — he currently has the lowest slugging percentage (.474) of his career.
But is he really hitting the ball farther than even pre-injury?
"Yeah, even in the cage, off the tee, the ball just seems to be jumping off the bat," Bryant said. "It could be the same, honestly, I don't know. But just in my mind, I feel like the ball's really jumping off the bat and anytime you have that upper edge in terms of how you're thinking and your confidence, that's all that really matters. So that's how I'm feeling."