The Chicago Cubs‘ new manager David Ross made headlines when he announced Kris Bryant would be leading off in 2020. This is the first of many big decisions that the first time manager will face this season. The lead off spot would be new territory for Bryant, who has been relied on to drive runs in his whole career.
Ross: “It’s really easy to change the lineup in my seat but I think that screams panic when you start to change. (KB) is one of the best players in baseball. Putting him at the top of the order and how he goes about his business – I want (that) representing our team” every night.
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) February 19, 2020
Ross went on to say, “The dynamic of KB and Rizz behind him is a good one-two punch at the top.” The lineup would certainly be top heavy with the ‘Bryzzo’ duo at the top of the order each game. Letting your best guys get things rolling seems like a simple strategy, but it may be just what Chicago needs to bring life into this team. The lead off spot has been a weak link since its 2016 campaign and it’s a problem that they need to solve.
The Numbers Behind the Switch
Logistically, moving Kris Bryant could work. The star third baseman has a career OBP of .385, which would sit near the top of the league for lead off hitters. Anthony Rizzo was the only player better than Bryant at getting on base in 2019 — with an OBP of .405. Having these two at the top of the lineup could lead to a lot of production. Presumably, with Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber at the three-hole, and clean-up spots.
Obviously a concern is that his RBI numbers will take a hit, but this may not be the case. In recent seasons, players like, DJ Lamahieu, Mookie Betts, and George Springer have thrived when leading off. Now, they also played in the AL, where the pitcher doesn’t kill innings batting at the nine hole, but Kris Bryant will likely still have plenty of opportunities to knock some runs in. Not to mention the increased at-bats that come with it. You can’t go wrong getting your best players more plate appearances. Anything is better than their OBP of .294 from the lead-off hitters last season, which ranked dead last in the MLB.
Cubs All-In on Bryant in 2020
More than anything, this decision from David Ross show his trust in Bryant. After another long off-season full of trade rumors involving him, he shows up for camp and has the team’s full support. The Cubs seem to be all-in on the talent that they have, which will boost the clubhouse morale going into Spring Training.
Chicago still has a very young core group of talented players. Kris Bryant was once an NL MVP in 2016, and Javier Baez came very close to earning one for himself in 2018. These lineup changes could be the beginning of some positive changes under Ross, as the Cubs look to exceed expectations and retake the NL Central crown.