With 103 plate appearances in the books, Chicago Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant is reaching a point in his phenomenal season at double-A Tennessee where sample size caveats begin to fade away. Bryant is currently hitting .298/.427/.571 with five home runs and five stolen bases.
While Bryant is 22 years old, he is still 2.5 years younger than the average player in the league, making his performance all the more impressive. Although Bryant’s hitting prowess comes as no surprise, his 14.6 percent walk rate and five stolen bases without being caught both stand out boldly when looking at his stats.
This season is Bryant’s second in professional baseball and his first full season in the minor leagues, but it appears that coming out of college has made Bryant a more mature hitter at the plate when compared to the Cubs’ other phenom, Javier Baez. It would not be surprising to see Bryant actually receive a call to the majors before Baez, who is currently struggling at triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs have stated that they would like to see their prospects receive a full season’s worth of at-bats at the highest level of the minors before making their MLB debuts, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Bryant is currently proving that he can and should be that exception.
The main problem with a promotion to the big leagues for Bryant is his position. Currently, Bryant is playing third base for the Smokies and the Cubs have stated they will keep him there for as long as possible. However, most scouts agree that at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds with a cannon arm, Bryant’s best position long-term will be in right field.
The Cubs’ current right fielder, Nate Schierholtz, is having a dreadful season at the plate in 2014 after a small breakout last year. It was assumed that the Cubs would make every effort to trade Schierholtz away this season as he will become a free agent during the offseason, but with his slow start, the market for Schierholtz has likely completely dried up.
Whether or not Schierholtz is traded away, or performs poorly enough that he loses at-bats, it seems likely that there will be an opening for Bryant to make his major league debut sometime this summer. The first sign fans will need to look for in order for a promotion to occur will be Bryant receiving playing time in the outfield.
If Bryant can continue his torrid start, he may be one of the only reasons for fans to continue to come out to Wrigley Field during the second half of the season.