Last Friday in his first career Spring Training at-bat, Chicago Cubs prospect Kris Bryant worked a 3-2 count, then fouled off several pitches before he hit a monster home run to deep center field. The ball was estimated to have traveled 430 feet. What a way to burst onto the scene this spring. Bryant has been better than the Cubs could have ever hoped when they selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in last June’s First-Year Player Draft. That being said, even with all of his promise and contributions thus far, do not expect Bryant to reach the big leagues anytime this season.
Bryant is an athletic third baseman with a smooth swing. He profiles as an elite power hitter, and he certainly looks the part standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 215 pounds. Bryant moves well for a guy his size and is a solid defender at 3B. Most scouts believe that he can handle 3B in the big leagues someday, but conventional wisdom is that he will eventually move to a corner outfield spot. Bryant has incredible poise, plate discipline and power at the plate. He does struggle to make contact at times, but that is to be expected with a power hitter.
Bryant joined the Cubs’ system out of the University of San Diego. He put up video game like numbers in his last college season (.329/.493/.820 with 31 home runs in 62 games), and he was simply not challenged at that level. After signing his deal with the Cubs, Bryant dominated in the lower levels of the minor leagues, hitting .336/.390/.688. He did his best work as a professional last season at the High-A level, which is incredibly impressive for a prospect just drafted. This offseason, the Cubs sent Bryant to the top prospect heavy Arizona Fall League. Bryant destroyed high-level pitching in Arizona, taking home the AFL MVP award. Bryant simply dominated opposing pitchers wherever he was last season.
Bryant is now considered one of the best power hitting prospects in all of baseball, and many have him ranked as the second-best prospect for the Cubs behind only Javier Baez in a system loaded with talent. As great as Bryant is and as promising of a future as he has, I do not believe that he will reach the big leagues this season. In a season that they are not expected to be competitive, I think the Cubs will be patient with guys like Bryant as they allow them plenty of time in the minors to fine-tune their games.
Recently, Cubs president Theo Epstein compared Bryant’s progression to Tampa Bay Rays star third baseman Evan Longoria, who was drafted No. 3 overall in 2006. Longoria made it all the way to Double-A in his first season as a professional, but spent most of his next season at that same level before getting the call to Triple-A at the end of the 2007 season. Longoria did not reach the big leagues until the 2008 season. Bryant is expected to start this season at Double-A. If the Cubs follow the same path as the Rays did with Longoria, Bryant will make it to Chicago in 2015.
This all depends on Bryant’s progression as a hitter. If he continues to completely dominate in the minor leagues, the Cubs may have no choice but to give him a shot at the major league level late in the season. That being said, because the Cubs have no reason to waste a 40-man roster spot on Bryant, I find it very unlikely. Bryant is a great player with an incredibly high ceiling, but do not go buying his Cubs’ jersey just yet. This is still a 22-year-old prospect with only 128 professional at-bats under his belt.