The former Arizona Fall League MVP Kris Bryant is considered the Chicago Cubs top prospect but will not be for long. Why? Because once you are on the big clubs roster you are no longer a prospect. Look we know it is Spring Training but if I asked you who was leading Major League Baseball in home runs I doubt many would properly pick Kris Bryant.
At 23 years old the talented youngster, who I praised for the Cubs and for fantasy baseball rosters in 2015, is not letting anyone down. When he got to Spring Training he had no assurances. In fact, Theo Epstein had already pointed out that he would have to watch and evaluate. How did Bryant take that?
“I’ve said all along, I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder and at the same time, having fun. You can’t beat baseball right now — the sun shining.”
Many youngsters might have hung their heads, tucked their tails, or just got so distraught that they could not perform. Not Bryant, who has the ability of a veteran to turn a negative into a motivator. But why didn’t Theo Epstein give him the green light from the word go? You have to look no further than last year’s Spring Training.
In 2014, he got his fair shake with 18 at-bats but frankly did not deliver. He did hit two home runs but those were the only two spring hits that he could manage. Think about that for a minute, he hit.111 last spring and struck out 11 times.
He sat down with brass after he found out he did not make the big club. They told him what to work on and he did in a big way. In 2014, for Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, he hit an impressive 43 long balls while working on his affinity for the swing and miss. He worked hard to close out some holes in his swing and that paid large dividends.
So far this spring he leads MLB in home runs but in 25 at-bats is also hitting over a .400 clip and even threw in a couple of doubles. Heck one of his long balls came against Felix Hernandez which is not a bad way to enjoy the spring weather.
Some thought Bryant might be a bit clunky in the field with a 6’5”, 215 pound frame but that is not the case. He is more athletic than many would think and carries a very strong arm. He might not win Gold Glove Awards but he will be above average in the field and more than make up for that at the plate.
Don’t expect another Adam Dunn here. Bryant is a professional hitter and can do more than hit the long ball. His .325 minor league batting average can attest to his ability to get balls in play. Sorry MLB managers, Bryant can hit the ball to all fields so the standard shift will not apply. That alone will help Bryant keep his average up.
Bryant projects as a .275-.290 hitter with 35-45 home run power. He might exceed those expectations but even if he only delivers at the projected clip that puts him in the National League Most Valuable Player conversation.
The Cubs are in a better position than many understand. Why? They already have young talent at the MLB level with Jorge Solar, Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo all 25 or younger. They team also has funds to spend and Maddon as the coach. This team just might stay intact for the next few years.
Joe Maddon is no fresh face when it comes to young talent. While Maddon himself has enjoyed a long life, he still understands how to cultivate young talent. The core in Chicago and specifically Kris Bryant will not be his first rodeo. Evan Longoria, Troy Percival and Jim Edmonds are just some of the talented youngsters that thrived under the tutelage of Maddon. Bryant should reap the same rewards.
It is time, and there is no reason on the globe to avoid giving Kris Bryant his rightful spot at the hot corner. He could be 2015 Rookie of the Year and a mainstay in Chicago for years to come. Theo it’s time to let some of the young talent you have cultivated to thrive. It is Kris Bryant’s moment and time for Cubs fans to celebrate on the other side of the All-Star break again. The time is now.