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Kris Bryant injury update: Rockies outfielder, still lacking power, lands on IL with left heel bruise

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The Colorado Rockies announced Thursday afternoon that outfielder Kris Bryant has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to a left heel bruise. As a corresponding move, fellow veteran outfielder Charlie Blackmon was reinstated from the bereavement list. At 24-33, the Rockies entered play Thursday with the worst record in the NL, but let’s focus on Bryant. 

Remember, Bryant was the second overall pick in the 2013 draft and breezed through the minors. He won NL Rookie of the Year in 2015 and MVP in 2016, leading the Cubs to the World Series championship. I’m aware most people reading this already know that information, but it’s worth laying it out just so we are thinking about just how toward the top of the baseball world he was a relatively short time ago. 

Bryant is now on the second year of his seven-year, $182 million deal with the Rockies. Through 2019 with the Cubs, so his first five MLB seasons, Bryant had a 137 OPS+. With the Rockies last year, it was 126. Due to several injured list stints, he managed just 42 games, hitting only five home runs (none in Coors Field) while slugging .475 and posting just 0.4 WAR (he was at 7.3 in his MVP season). 

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So far this season, things have gotten worse. Bryant was hitting for average early in the season, but it’s down to .263. He again only has five homers (this time in 50 games) while slugging an abysmal .374. His OPS+ is 87. His WAR? It’s negative-0.5. In 92 total games with the Rockies, he has -0.1 WAR (he averaged about 3.1 WAR per that many games while with the Cubs). 

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Injuries are always going to bring down power, but it seems like there’s something more. If you were to dig into his batted-ball data, you’d find that he doesn’t hit the ball nearly as hard as he used to and is probably too pull-happy, but he’s not pounding it into the ground too often or anything (his groundball rate more resembles 2016 than any other year). 

More than anything else, I wonder if there’s a mental block. Bryant hasn’t thrived at Coors Field like many expected. Last year, he didn’t hit a single home run at home and slugged only .374 in his 26 home games. Small sample? Of course. But now he’s bad all around at home. Look at these numbers in Denver’s famous hitter’s haven this season: 

All hitters: .291/.353/.479
Kris Bryant: .258/.349/.398

He has hit three homers there, but it’s still not an overly impressive run with the power. The average being more than 30 points below league average is a major problem, too. He’s supposed to be their best player. 

Instead, the 31-year-old, four-time All-Star and former MVP hits the injured list again with major concerns about his ability to be a difference-maker in the lineup. 

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