Ever since the smashing MLB debut of Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez, including three homers in his first three games, Cubs fans have been pelting the organization with questions about whether third baseman and fellow top prospect Kris Bryant would play in Chicago this season. They can certainly argue that Bryant deserves a chance, having hit 40 home runs between Class AA Tennessee and Class AAA Iowa this season. But Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and everyone under him has been consistent in saying they don’t want to bring Bryant up in this, his first full year of professional baseball.
Bryant, who was Chicago’s top pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, may have answered all the questions unintentionally and painfully this week, when he left Saturday’s Iowa game with an injury to his left big toe. This was reported as an aggravation of a prior injury, and doesn’t sound like anything serious, though, Bryant was to get an MRI today just to be sure. With the Pacific Coast League regular season winding down, many Cubs fans hoped Bryant might be among those added to the big club when MLB rosters expand Sept. 1.
Now, there’s no reason to take that chance. You want Bryant at 100 percent when he debuts with Chicago, and ideally, you want him to have a full Spring Training under his belt. Yes, Baez made some noise in his debut and his tremendous power is unquestioned, but even Baez has struggled a bit with a .241 average, though, his .755 OPS is pretty decent. Fellow prospect Arismendy Alcantara did some nice things both offensively and defensively since coming up, but now is hitting just .210.
There’s no reason to risk Bryant either further injuring himself in September or shaking his confidence if his debut doesn’t go well. In addition, there’s a good chance that Iowa will be involved in the PCL playoffs, and a taste of postseason play, even at a lower level, might be a valuable experience for Bryant — more so than getting 20 or 30 at-bats with Chicago during meaningless games throughout September.
The expectation of Bryant in a Chicago Cubs uniform is high and understandable for fans, but there’s no reason not to be patient. The rebuild is moving along nicely and Bryant is the next piece. But there’s reason for that piece to be added before the 2015 season begins. Now that Bryant has even only a potential minor injury, that point is even more true.