Kris Bryant is Cubs’ best bet for All-Star berth

Baseball by the Numbers: Team’s other position players don’t really measure up this season.

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The Cubs’ Kris Bryant is the leading All-Star vote-getter among National League third basemen, but he actually has spent more time in the outfield this season.

The Cubs’ Kris Bryant is the leading All-Star vote-getter among National League third basemen, but he actually has spent more time in the outfield this season.

Gregory Bull/AP

The Cubs’ position — tied for first place in the National League Central through Sunday — has come with only one non-pitcher having an All-Star-level start.

Kris Bryant has been the exception. That’s reflected in the early stages of fan voting, in which he leads NL third basemen.

But Bryant has played most of his games in the outfield, and his numbers there are a step behind those of the leaders.

Discerning fans looking at Bryant and other Cubs candidates can use wins above replacement for a look at a player’s overall game and weighted runs created plus for a tight focus on offense.

June hasn’t been kind to Bryant. He has dropped from a 1.004 OPS while hitting .316/.397/.607 through June 4 to an .877 OPS (.277/.360/.517) through Sunday. The last of his 13 home runs came June 4 against the Giants.

Even so, Bryant’s2.2 WAR (as calculated at Fangraphs.com) ranks 12th in the NL and his 140 wRC+ ranks 18th.

In the outfield, where Bryant has played 43 games and made 38 starts, that would make him a second-tier candidate. The Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. (3.6, 169), the Reds’ Nick Castellanos (3.2, 166) and Jesse Winker (2.7, 175) and the Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds (2.7, 153) outrank Bryant in fWAR and wRC+.

But Bryant is on the ballot at third, where most of his 20 games and 19 starts came in April.

At third, Bryant is at the top of the NL class with a 2.2 fWAR, followed by the Dodgers’ Justin Turner(2.0), the Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado (1.9) and the Padres’ Manny Machado (1.8). By wRC+, the Giants’ Evan Longoria (146 to go with a 1.6 fWAR), Turner (141) and Bryant (140) lead. Arenado (123) and Machado (114) trail on offense but have WAR boosts on defense.

The Cubs’ Patrick Wisdom has only 73 plate appearances in 25 games but has packed enough production that his 1.2 fWAR is tied for eighth at third.

That’s not enough to justify an All-Star vote, but that fWAR is tied with shortstop Javy Baez for second among Cubs position players.

Hitting .227/.266/.464 with 16 homers, Baez has struggled to get on base but has slugged enough for a 96 wRC+ (100 is league average). Defense boosts him to a 1.2 fWAR, but that’s well short of star level in a league with the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. (3.1, 173) and the Nationals’ Trea Turner (2.8, 128).

Willson Contreras’ 11 homers are one behind leader Buster Posey of the Giants among NL catchers. It’s not close beyond that, however, with Posey’s .983 OPS representing a huge leap over Contreras’ .728.

Posey leads NL catchers at 2.7 fWAR and 170 wRC+; Contreras is at 1.1, seventh among NL catchers, and 103.

Anthony Rizzo (0.9, 117) also is well down the list behind the Dodgers’ Max Muncy (2.7, 162) at first base.

It’s a collection of Cubs with value but without great metrics. For fans looking for an All-Star candidate who measures up by the numbers, Bryant is the one.

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