Future looks bright after Bryant's stellar debut
Slugging third baseman among baseball's top prospects at the hot corner
CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant has been on the fast track since getting picked second overall in last June's First-Year Player Draft.
After the Cubs selected the third baseman in the first round, he played a couple games in the Arizona Rookie League, then was promoted to short-season Boise. In 18 games, he batted .354, then joined Class A Advanced Daytona and helped that team win the Florida State League championship. For the year, Bryant hit .336 in 36 games with nine home runs, 14 doubles and 32 RBIs.
His season didn't end there. Bryant played in the Arizona Fall League, competing with players who had spent most of the season at either Double-A or Triple-A, and batted .364 in 20 games with six home runs, eight doubles and 17 RBIs.
How good is Bryant? After earning the 2013 College Player of the Year, he was ranked No. 2 on MLBPipeline.com's top 10 third base prospects list behind the Twins' Miguel Sano. MLBPipeline.com's 2014 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Thursday on MLB.com as well as on a one-hour show on MLB Network. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com is breaking down baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
Last week, Bryant, 22, joined 14 of the team's top prospects in a rookie development camp that ended with appearances at the Cubs Convention. It was a hectic week as Bryant took part in a hospital visit, heard former players Rick Sutcliffe and Bill Mueller talk about playing in Chicago, worked out, attended a Blackhawks game, answered questions in a social media session, played football with kids at the convention and climbed into the Wrigley Field scoreboard. Fans learned he likes country music, began playing baseball when he was 4 years old, and his favorite color is blue.
Of course, the No. 1 question from Cubs fans is when Bryant will be playing in the big leagues.
"That's not up to me to decide," he said. "I have confidence in myself to go out there every day and play as hard as I can and that's all I can do right now."
He's heard whispers from talent prognosticators that he'll eventually end up in the outfield. Bryant prefers third base, and that's where the Cubs will keep him for now. He has hit with former batting champion Bill Madlock, and knows the key is being consistent. Asked during a seminar for a favorite player, Bryant picked Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.
Impatient fans should keep in mind that Longoria spent three seasons in the Minor Leagues. Bryant has only one abbreviated year so far if you count the AFL games.
"Ultimately, it comes down to them," said Jason McLeod, director of scouting and player development, regarding when the prospects will be promoted. "They're going to let us know when they're ready. They have to go out and perform, they have to go out and meet some of the things we've outlined in their individual player plans. They know that and they recognize it."
Bryant is part of the Cubs' core four of potential impact prospects, which also includes Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
"We're not going to rush them up just to pat ourselves on the back and say, 'Hey, look we drafted the right guy,' or 'We traded for the right guy,'" McLeod said. "We're in this for the right reasons and for the long haul."
Bryant just shrugs and smiles when asked if he feels any pressure from fans' expectations.
"There's no pressure," Bryant said. "Baseball's a fun game. If you let pressure creep in, then you're not having fun, and that's why I play the game [to have fun].
"We're not the only ones here who can help the team win," he said. "There are plenty of guys here who are doing a great job."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.