Chicago Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant had a record-breaking season, and it was authenticated Monday when he was unanimously chosen as the National League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The 23-year-old set rookie records this season with 26 home runs, 99 RBIs, 62 extra-base hits and 273 total bases. Additionally, Bryant hit 31 doubles, drew 77 walks and scored 86 runs.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the only other player to attain those totals for homers, RBIs, doubles, runs and walks in a rookie season in the major leagues was Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox in 1939.
He also tied for the major league home run lead among first year players while leading all full time NL rookies in slugging, on-base and OPS. Additionally, he was the leader in all NL hitters in strikeouts with 199. But he hit .292 with a .417 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position.
Further, Bryant is fast. He stole 13 bases last season, taking third among NL rookies, according to ESPN. At one point in the season, Joe Maddon called Bryant the “best base runner” for the Cubs.
The vote for Bryant was unanimous. He received first-place votes on all 30 ballots–two from each of the 15 cities in the NL.
Matt Duffy of the San Francisco Giants was the runner-up, followed by Jung Ho Kang of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets and Justin Bour of the Miami Marlins rounded out the top rookies.
Bryant told the MLB Network from the Southern California offices of agent Scott Boras that he has a “whole off-season to celebrate this and work hard for the ultimate goal, and that’s winning the World Series.” “And I sure hope to do that next season with the Cubs,” he added.
Though Bryant was not promoted from Triple-A Iowa until April 17, he made a name for himself by having one of the most impressive rookie seasons in Cubs franchise history. Questions were brought about regarding his ability to play third base as a 6-foot-5-inch man weighing in at 215.
However, Bryant doesn’t seem to think about that sort of thing. “I play for the love of the game,” Bryant said. “All that (business) stuff takes care of itself.”
“I went out there and played as hard as I can with a little chip on my shoulder and things turned out great. We won, went far in the playoffs and surprised a lot of teams. Moving on from this season, I think the future is so bright for this team,” he added.
Bryant started 136 games at third, but he also started five in right field, four in left, one in center and one at first.
Bryant was the Cubs’ first pick in the 2013 draft, and he is the sixth player in the history of the Cubs’ franchise to nab the BWAA’s Rookie of the Year award. He is the first to win since catcher Geovany Soto in 2008.
He was also the fifth Cubs rookie named to the All-Star Game and the youngest Cubs third baseman to be put on the NL All-Star team since 1963 (Ron Santo).
So where does all of this talent come from? Beyond natural ability, it appears that Bryant has the drive and motivation to be great.
“He is always trying to learn and improve and doesn’t have fear of making adjustments,” Cubs hitting coach John Mallee said Monday, according to ESPN. “He wants to be the best player in the game.”