Kris Bryant Is Cubs' MVP — Most Versatile Player

"He is playing as good as he can play right now," Joe Maddon says.

Bruce Levine
July 21, 2019 - 3:06 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- As the Cubs to strengthen their hold on the NL Central, there's no doubt who their team MVP is.

That would be Kris Bryant -- their most versatile player.

While the most valuable player debate on the Cubs is a spirited one that involves several players, there's a consensus that Bryant's ability to play third base and the outfield at a high level has been a key component to their success. Bryant's versatility allows manager Joe Maddon to get others regular at-bats or rest as needed, employ flexibility with his in-game lineup changes and create more advantageous matchups. 

Bryant has had a terrific comeback season after an injury-plagued 2018. He entered play Sunday hitting .297 with 20 homers, 47 RBIs and a .965 OPS in 93 games. In addition to his bat and quality glove, Bryant is arguably the best baserunner on the Cubs. 

"He is playing as good as he can play right now," Maddon said. "It is huge he has been able to do that, and he does it without complaint. That is so important to what we are doing now. If he were recalcitrant, it would be really difficult to make this whole thing work."

Bryant had started 57 games at third base, 19 in right field and 10 in left field entering Sunday. He had also started at first base three times and served as the designated hitter on three occasions. Bryant has more stability in his place in the batting order, hitting second 81 times, but he's also fully accepting of wherever Maddon wants to slot him.

After his frustrating 2018, Bryant was motivated to prove any doubters wrong. He also envisioned his big season coming.

"I am ready to take the field and do damage every time I am out there," Bryant said back in the first week of spring training. "My swing is back, and I have had the same swing since I was eight years old. I am not changing anything because I had an injury last year. Joe can use me anywhere he wants to if that helps us win."

Maddon doesn't believe that moving Bryant or any player around positionally should affect performance.

"That to me is such an old conversation that you must keep a position player at one spot to do OK," Maddon said. "Pete Rose did all right moving around. A lot of guys have done well moving around. That to me is a made-up conversation if a guy doesn't have a good day."

Maddon has needed to be more flexible in his use of Bryant with veteran infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist on a personal leave of absence since early May.

"When we got Zo originally in Tampa, he was a shortstop," Maddon said. "He was just an average hitter and so-so shortstop. Once we started moving him around, it was like, 'Wow, this guy can play the outfield.' When a guy is as athletic as Bryant and you can extrapolate that play out of him, that makes the team better."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.