Behold a question that I doubt anybody expected to be asked at any point in the 2015 season:

Is Kris Bryant finally going to start hitting for power now?

An unexpected question, indeed. But before we get to answering it, let’s get to what’s prompting it.

On Monday night at Wrigley Field, Bryant had a pretty good game in the Chicago Cubs‘ 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went 2-for-3 with a walk and a pair of home runs, giving him the first multi-homer game of his career and pushing his season total to 10.

The first was a two-run dinger in the third inning off a Clayton Kershaw curveball (a rare feat, indeed) that gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead:

The second was a solo shot in the eighth inning off Adam Liberatore that pushed the Cubs’ lead to 4-1:

In all, not a bad way for Bryant to end a three-game hitless streak. And according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, the man himself felt it coming:

Now, in watching Bryant hit those two dingers, you’re not seeing anything he hasn’t done before. The 23-year-old slugger cranked 43 home runs in the minors last year as he was climbing his way to the top of the prospect rankings, and he blasted nine more during spring training. As you would expect from a guy who is 6’5″ and 215 pounds, hitting homers is what Bryant is known for.

It’s just that…gee, you know, I hate to say it…but we were all kind of expecting to see more home runs this season.

Before he blasted those two homers, Bryant was sitting on only eight homers in 59 games. That wasn’t a bad total, but it wasn’t a satisfactory number for those who were expecting him to live up to his immense power potential right away. 

And it wasn’t just Bryant’s lack of home runs. His isolated power—that’s like slugging percentage, minus the singles—at the start of Monday’s action was only .179. That’s roughly half the .340 ISO Bryant posted in his time in the minors.

Amid all this, Bryant was still having a strong offensive season with a .277 average and an .834 OPS. But while it was easy to appreciate those numbers, it was hard not to imagine how they’d look with the kind of power the Bryant Hype Machine had promised everyone.

Now, however, things are looking a little better. Bryant is sitting on a .203 ISO and 10 home runs, which says puts him on pace to finish with 24. If his two-homer game proves to be the first step of a long-awaited power surge, he figures to do significantly better than that.

And without promising anything, I’ll say this: Oh, this just might be the start of something, all right.

First, understand that it’s unrealistic to promise a power surge from Bryant because he’s not about to go out of his way to hit for power. He made that clear early on.

“A lot of our job is to get on base and give your team a chance to score a run. I trust anyone hitting in front of me or behind me,” Bryant told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times in early May. “There’s more to the game than just hitting home runs, especially nowadays with a lot being said about getting on base and on-base percentage. If I’m on base I’m giving my team a chance.”

A fine outlook, to be sure, and Bryant has practiced what he preached. In being willing to take his walks (13.1 BB%) and hit the ball where it’s pitched—his spray chart at MLB Farm is a sight to behold—Bryant has operated like a guy who values on-base percentage.

And yet, we’ve been able to say all along that Bryant should be hitting for more power. And in light of recent developments, we can now say that he finally could start hitting for more power.

First, there’s the fact that Bryant’s raw power is a lot better than his power production this year would suggest. We know this because only he and Joey Gallo got 80 grades for their power from Baseball America, and also because he did this earlier this year:

There, we have now established that Bryant has incredible raw power.

As for why that raw power wasn’t translating to more home runs, that’s where things get tricky.

Typically, what you need to translate raw power into home runs is a fly-ball rate, and that’s something Bryant wasn’t actually having trouble with. Per FanGraphs, he entered Monday’s action with one of the 10 highest fly-ball rates in the league at 46.6 percent. 

Instead of getting the ball in the air, Bryant’s problem was simply getting the ball over the fence. His HR/FB rate (home runs per fly balls) heading into Monday was only 11.6 percent, which was the lowest among eight hitters with fly-ball rates of at least 46 percent. 

So though Bryant was hitting plenty of fly balls, you could put two and two together and determine that he simply wasn’t hitting good fly balls. In early May, Chris Towers of CBS Sports even went so far as to wonder if Bryant had mere warning-track power. That was certainly too far, but there’s no question things needed to change for Bryant to start translating his raw power into game power.

And that leads us, finally, to the good news: It appears that is changing.

Using a combination of stats from FanGraphs and Baseball Savant, here’s how Bryant’s batted balls have progressed since April:

Here, we see that Bryant’s fly-ball percentage has stayed safely above the 40 percent threshold. But we also see that he’s hit fewer pop-ups since the early days of his career in April, and that both his fly-ball and line-drive exit velocity and overall hard-hit rate have peaked in June.

Summarized: Bryant has kept hitting fly balls at a high rate while making louder contact more frequently. That’s a picture of a guy doing a better job of tapping into his raw power in games.

To boot, these figures haven’t even been updated to include what went down on Monday night. If that data were available, these figures would jump off the page even more.

Given all this, Bryant’s two-homer explosion feels like less of a random occurrence and more like something he was building toward. And now that it’s happened, it’s perhaps something he can build off.

Again, there are no guarantees here. But if you’ve been waiting patiently for Bryant to start hitting dingers left and right, your patience may soon be rewarded.


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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