Kris Bryant's Demotion (03/31/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
What impact does Kris Bryant's demotion have on the Cubs playoff chances?

The Chicago Cubs have demoted super prospect Kris Bryant to their minor league club. Bryant, just 23-years old, batted .425 with nine homers and 15 RBIs in 40 at-bats in spring training.

Theo Epstein, Chicago's President of Baseball Operations, said that Bryant needed to work on his defense and needed a little more seasoning in the minors.

Few believe the Cubbies explanation. For one, Bryant led the minor leagues with 43 homers last season. Plus, if Bryant spends 12 or more days in the minor leagues, Chicago would delay baseball's top prospect from becoming eligible for free agency by one year, until after the 2021 season.

Yes, the financials related to service time, team control and money say this is the right decision but what impact does Bryant's demotion have on the Cubs playoff chances in 2015?

In our MLB Preview, we assumed that Bryant would not make the big league team for all the reasons listed above. Our preseason analysis anticipated that Bryant would play 140 games for the Loveable Losers. It is possible that the third baseman of the future misses more than just the first two weeks of the season. It could be in the Cubs best interest to leave Bryant in the minors longer to help avoid possible litigation.

If Bryant were to play 140 games for the Cubs, Chicago is projected to finish third in the NL Central with an 84.4-77.6 record on average. The North Siders have a 17.2 percent chance to win the division, a 45.7 percent chance to make the playoffs and 2.8 percent chance to win the World Series. Not bad for a team that hasn't been in the postseason for six straight years.

If Bryant weren't demoted and played the entire season in Wrigley Field, Chicago's record improves to 85.8-76.2. The Cubbies have a 21.6 percent chance to win the NL Central, a 53.2 percent chance to reach the postseason and a 3.4 percent chance to win the club's first World Series since 1908.

Bryant over a full season is worth 1.4 wins, which makes the Cubs greater than 50 percent likely to make the playoffs and increases the team's World Series odds by more than 20 percent.

The Cubs have decided not to field their best team on Opening Day. One or two wins, the difference of having Bryant on the team for a full season, might not seem important but every year we are reminded how thin the line is between making and missing the playoffs. The Mariners missed the playoffs by one win last year. The last AL wild card had to be determined by a play-in game in 2013. The 2012 Dodgers (two games), the 2011 Braves (one game) and Red Sox (one game) and the 2010 Padres (one game) all missed the playoffs by the narrowest of margins.

If the Chicago Cubs truly care about winning then Kris Bryant should start the season in the majors.

The Cubs Playoff Probabilities - With and Without Kris Bryant

Statistics With Bryant (162 games) Without Bryant (140 games)
Record 85.8-76.2 84.4-77.6
Division Win% 21.6% 17.2%
Playoff Chance 53.2% 45.7%
Win World Series 3.4% 2.8%