Kris Bryant’s first two seasons in Colorado have been underwhelming. That’s putting it kindly.
Hampered by injuries, Bryant has not come close to sniffing the MVP form he showed in 2016 when he slashed .292/.385/.554, hit 39 homers and helped lead the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908.
But Bryant, who signed a Rockies franchise-record free-agent deal for seven years, $182 million in the spring of 2022, believes he can still be the player that the Rockies planned for him to be — and need him to be — if they are going to rebound from a 103-loss season.
“In my mind, I think the biggest thing is you just look at the back of someone’s baseball card and you kind of think, ‘Hey, this is the type of player that they are,’” Bryan said Saturday at Rockies Fanfest at Coors Field. “I know that’s the type of player I am.”
Bryant is penciled in to be Colorado’s starting first baseman, though he will also get at-bats as a designated hitter and could see some time in right field. He started seven games at first base last season, his first time playing the position since 2021. Before the 2023 season, he had made 23 career starts at first.
But the Rockies didn’t give Bryant the big bucks to play first. They paid him to slug and spice up what’s been one of baseball’s most tepid offenses.
In seven seasons in Chicago, the four-time All-Star and 2015 National League Rookie of the Year slashed .279/.378/.508 and had a cumulative OPS+ of 113 (with a 100 OPS+ being the major league average). In two seasons in Colorado, he’s slashed .259/.378/.508 with an OPS+ of 93. His career home run percentage is 4.2; with the Rockies it’s just 2.9%.
Bryant, 32, has dealt with plantar fasciitis, a bruised left heel and a broken left index finger that limited him to 122 games — 42 in 2022, 80 in 2023 — in his first two seasons in a Rockies uniform. That means he’s played just 32% of the time since signing his mega deal.
Bryant, however, says he’s healthy now and is having a good offseason.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’m super eager to get back onto the field with a clear mindset and control what I can control. Last year wasn’t too fun, but it was important to step back and realize that I have played this game for a long time and I have survived a lot of scares and never really had any broken bones.”
Until he was hit by a pitch at Tampa Bay on July 22 and was on the injured list through Sept. 11.
“I feel fortunate that I’m healthy right now and the offseason has been great,” Bryant said.
During difficult times, Bryant said he’s relied on the advice he got from veteran right-hander John Lackey when Lackey pitched for the Cubs in 2016-17.
“One of the best things he told me was, ‘You can’t be great every year. And sometimes the pressure we put on ourselves to come through in every situation is not healthy,’” Bryant said, adding that he’s shared that philosophy with some of Colorado’s young players over the past two seasons.
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But Bryant, quiet by nature and not one to seek the media spotlight, said it would be a mistake to think that he’s not passionate about winning and his performance.
“I have played this game for a long time and I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, but the desire in me to perform and be a good baseball player and do big things on the field to help the team win (is there),” he said. “Sometimes it doesn’t shine through a TV lens, but I can tell you that when I go home and things aren’t going my way, it’s not the best spot to be because I expect a lot of myself.
“When I’m not performing to my standard it eats at me, but a lot of times I fall back on what John Lackey said to me. Because when you play this game this long, certain things are going to happen, but I know that there are much better days ahead, in my future.”