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Kris Bryant Should Be the NL MVP

Along with Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, his across-the-board greatness puts him in the most elite tier of position players in 2016.

Kris Bryant isn’t just the frontrunner for the award—he’s one of the three best players in baseball, who should dominate the game for years.   Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

Today is a little breather, the first day in months without baseball. On Wednedsay, the Cubs will learn whether they’ll face the Mets or Giants. 

Despite the events of last year, Cubs fans may want to pull for the Mets. Their superlative rotation going into the season, arguably baseball’s best, is now down to Thor, the aged Bartolo Colon, and two iffy replacements, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, whose surprisingly good performances at the major-league level isn’t supported by their minor-league histories. A quick NLDS could be a boon, as both their potential NLCS opponents, the Dodgers and Nationals, are more fearsome.

The Cubs’ odds of winning it all are pretty good right now: 26 percent at FiveThirtyEight, 19 percent at Fangraphs, 25 percent at Baseball Prospectus, and 12/5 odds in Vegas, compared to 5/1 for the Red Sox. But nowhere are the odds going to be better than even.

So at least the Cubs have Kris Bryant. No matter what the playoffs bring, Bryant has to be all but a sure thing to win the MVP. Bryant is the best player in the NL by Wins Above Replacement at Fangraphs, BP, and Baseball Reference, and the only NL player to do well on that measure across the board.

The results vary more than you might guess; the only constants across all three are Trout, Betts, and Bryant, and only Trout and Bryant are among the top three by all three calculations.

Bryant isn’t necessarily the best hitter in the National League. Joey Votto, Daniel Murphy, and Freddie Freeman all have a higher wOBA, wRC+, OPS, adjusted OPS+, offensive win percentage, and most other hitting-only categories. What makes Bryant great is that he’s great at everything—Fangraphs, for instance, has him as the 21st-best player by defense and seventh-best by baserunning. (There’s deserved skepticism of fielding metrics, but making up for that, fairly or not, is the Cubs’ 103 wins. Votto and Freeman were on awful teams, and Murphy probably isn’t even the MVP on his own, very good team.)

There are always disagreements once you get into advance statistics, but it’s impressive how well the numbers agree that not only is Bryant the best player in the National League in 2016, he’s part of a young trio with Mike Trout and Mookie Betts as not only the best, but the most complete players in baseball.

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