Wisdom takes long way to match KB's record

September 15th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- There are very few similarities between and .

The former was the 52nd overall pick by the Cardinals in the 2012 MLB Draft -- one year before Bryant was selected second overall by the Cubs. Wisdom spent time with three other organizations before signing with Chicago last August, nine days after he was released by Seattle. Though he appeared in the Majors in 2018, '19 and '20, those stays were brief enough that Wisdom remains a rookie this season at the age of 30. Bryant, meanwhile, burst onto the scene as a highly touted prospect in 2015 -- at the age of just 23 years old.

Despite all that, Wisdom matched Bryant's franchise rookie home run record with his 26th of the season in Tuesday's 6-3 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Bryant, now with the Giants, was the first to congratulate Wisdom on the feat -- albeit a few days early.

“I knew I was close, and then when we played the Giants [this past weekend], I thought it would have been pretty cool to tie it with KB there,” Wisdom said. “When he got to third [base], we were just chit-chatting and he said, 'When you break my record, congrats on everything.' So that was pretty cool.”

Wisdom's milestone homer came on a no-doubt 447-foot blast to center field to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Alfonso Rivas, the club's No. 30 prospect, followed with a solo shot for the first home run of his big league career. Frank Schwindel, a 29-year-old rookie who has enjoyed a second-half surge of his own after being acquired at the Trade Deadline, added an RBI double two innings later.

As for Wisdom and Bryant, though their names are now linked -- at least for the time being -- in the Cubs' record book, few parallels exist between Bryant's 2015 season and Wisdom's '21 campaign. Bryant slashed .275/.369/.488 across 650 plate appearances over 151 games en route to winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in unanimous fashion. As for Wisdom, he's slashing .240/.305/.540 across 96 games -- and he’s needed only 329 plate appearances to match Bryant's mark. Still, Wisdom seems likely to defer to Reds second baseman Jonathan India in the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year race.

It wasn't long ago that Wisdom surged into that conversation and seemed poised to push India down the stretch. Wisdom had back-to-back two-homer games against the rival White Sox on Aug. 27-28, improving his season slash line to .259/.321/.586. His .907 OPS at the time led all rookies -- and was 67 points ahead of India’s.

Wisdom, however, entered Tuesday's series opener just 5-for-45 (.111) with zero homers in 13 games since that four-homer barrage against the White Sox. His .829 OPS also sat 18 points behind India. With his record-tying 26th homer and an eighth-inning double on Tuesday, though, Wisdom raised his OPS to .845 -- and jumped back ahead of India by two points.

“I’m really proud of how he's worked, though, and kept his cool through the ups and downs,” manager David Ross said. “He's put together a really nice season. He just tied KB for the rookie record for home runs -- that's pretty good company for a guy that wasn't even on the radar to start the season.”

With 17 games remaining, it's likely only a matter of time before Wisdom takes sole possession of the club's rookie home run record. But with Bryant's record being matched on a night when top prospect Brennen Davis also homered in each of his first two at-bats in his Triple-A debut with Iowa, it's fair to wonder if Wisdom's stay atop the list will be a brief one.

Davis, of course, would be a much more conventional rookie if he cracks the roster in 2022. He turns 22 years old this offseason, and like Bryant, will be debuting -- whenever the time comes -- as a highly regarded prospect.

For now, the Cubs will spend the final couple weeks evaluating what they have in atypical rookies like Wisdom and Schwindel, as well as 25-year-old rookie Rivas and 30-year-old journeyman Rafael Ortega, who had an RBI double against the Phillies. It all helped Adrian Sampson, who held the Phils to two runs over five-plus innings, earn his first win with the Cubs.

It’s not long ago that all of those guys were playing together in Davis’ spot with Triple-A Iowa.

“When you see a new guy roll into the clubhouse and it's a familiar face, it brightens up the day and you're just so pumped to see them,” Wisdom said of the former Iowa teammates sharing success at the big league level. “I think that translates out on the field, too. You're all pulling in the right direction. So playing alongside the guys in Iowa and now up here, it's definitely helped the confidence.”