Let’s acknowledge the obvious: Kris Bryant’s stock is not trading high.

Since the former Chicago Cub won the 2016 National League Most Valuable Player award, the now-Colorado Rockie has dealt with a litany of injuries (shoulder, wrist, knee, hamstring, back, foot) and hasn’t played a full season since 2017. The nadir of his woes almost certainly came last year—Bryant’s first with the Rockies—when he notched only 42 games and a case of plantar fasciitis ended his season, prompting a chorus of groans about the seven-year, $182 million contract he signed in March 2022. Local sports writers are already comparing Bryant’s deal to the one Russell Wilson signed with the Broncos. There’s been no joy in Mudville.

But let’s also acknowledge the upside: When healthy, Bryant is an elite hitter, one of the best in all of Major League Baseball. Removing the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Bryant has been an above-average hitter every year he’s been in baseball. There was a time when he was so dominant in the batter’s box that another MVP award seemed inevitable. And that wasn’t that long ago.

After a blistering start to his 2021 campaign, Bryant was selected as an All-Star and pegged as an MVP contender. He was flipped over to San Francisco, where he finished with respectable numbers, including 25 bombs. It wasn’t enough for the MVP award, but it was enough to get paid in the Mile High City.

Even though he was limited to 181 plate appearances in 2022, Bryant’s batting average was .306—more than 60 points above the league average. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS in baseball speak, or a stat that is supposed to measure how well a batter can hit for average and power) was a staggering .851, or nearly 150 points above average. By some metrics, Bryant was 27 percent better than the average Major League hitter.

Now, as the 31-year-old enters his ninth season in Major League Baseball and his second in a Rockies uniform, Bryant has something to prove. After an offseason in which fans and pundits declared his best power hitting behind him, saying he’ll never get healthy, and that the Rockies front office was foolishly optimistic (for the record, the Rockies front office is foolish for a variety of reasons), Bryant is primed for a prolific revenge season.

Call me a Pollyanna, but I’m willing to bet Colorado will see the best of Kris Bryant in 2023. He says he’s healthy and he’s had a great spring training: Through 16 exhibition games, Bryant has stroked four homers (one of which was off Brewers’ ace Corbin Burnes) with a .282 batting average and an OPS near 1.000. Critics will point out that spring training stats don’t actually matter, but for the dreamers among us: That’s on pace for 40 home runs in a 162-game season.

Many projection services suggest Bryant will be an above-average hitter this season, but they also predict the Rockies’ corner outfielder will only play in about 125 games (and launch fewer than 20 home runs). Las Vegas linemakers have his odds to win MVP at +10,000 (or 100 to 1). It bears repeating: Bryant’s stock is low.

That would be enough for most people to keep their money in their pocket, but to me it sounds like a great time to buy. The last time he won an MVP award, Bryant hit 39 home runs—the most he’s ever hit in one season. Since then, his slugging numbers have trailed off (he’s hit only 34 bombs total since 2019), but he also hasn’t had a fully healthy season in years. If his body holds up—and for the sake of optimism, let’s say it does—Bryant will be dominant playing half his games at high-elevation Coors Field.

If Kris Bryant hits 30 home runs, Rockies fans will breathe a sigh of relief. If he launches 40, I’ll take my winnings to the bank in a wheelbarrow.

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.