2013 Cubs Prospects in Review: Kris Bryant

kris-bryantKris Bryant stands 6-5 and weighs 215 pounds. He was born on January 4, 1992 and was drafted out of the University of San Diego this year. He was the Cubs first pick (2nd overall) and was rated as the 3rd best draft prospect by Baseball America.

He plays 3rd base and es expected to be able to continue playing there, but there has been some talk of him later moving to right field. He's a big-time power hitter.

He was named the college player of the year by Baseball America after hitting 31 home runs. That's 10 more than the next most this year and was the most hit by a college player since 2003. Those 31 home runs were more than the combined team total for over 200 teams in Division 1.

Bryant obviously has massive power and though his walk rate was quite good in college, and acceptable as a professional. He was getting pitched around so often in college that the manager moved him to leadoff so he'd get one plate appearance per game that he'd be pitched to. He also struckout plenty in college and had a swing and miss bat according to some scouts.

Performance

Kris Bryant's walk rate was 7.5% between rookie league, Low A and High A. For a college player with the kind of bat Bryant has, you'd hope for a little better. It was under 5% in 62 plate appearances at High A Daytona. His strikeout rate as a professional was 24% in 146 plate appearances. There. That's the concerning areas of his game and I thought I'd get it out of the way because what he did offensively was awfully impressive.

In 77 plate appearances at Boise he hit .354/.416/.692. That's a Bondsian .495 wOBA and a wRC+ of 209. At High A Daytona (62 PA), he hit .333/.387/.719. That's a .491 wOBA and 212 wRC+. Overall, he hit .336/.390/.688.

He hit 9 home runs and added 2 triples and 14 doubles. His ISO was .352. The Cubs drafted and signed to the largest bonus of the draft a guy who can hit for a ton of power and he did just that in his first professional season.

Other than his college numbers, this is all we have to go on with regards to performance. I'm skeptical of some of the college numbers (walks) and even the power. He's obviously a power hitter, but it's not likely he's going to display the same kind of power. Not to mention, he was playing in leagues for much of the year that he should be dominating. He did just that and next year we'll know a lot more.

Scouting

Almost all the information is below is pre-draft. There's still a lot we don't know about Bryant, but at the same time, we do know quite a bit. He handled himself exceptionally well at High A, which is probably close to the level of competition he was facing in college.

Bryant has shown huge raw power since his high school days in Las Vegas, and has blossomed into college baseball's premier slugger. He posted a 1.081 OPS and nine homers as a freshmen, then a 1.154 OPS and 14 long balls as a sophomore, but he has taken his game to new heights as a junior, posting a 1.357 OPS and 25 home runs (seven more than any other Division I player) through 49 games. Opponents have pitched him very carefully, but he has remained patient, posting a 56-31 walk-strikeout mark. Bryant's best tool is his plus-plus righthanded power, allowing him to launch towering shots over the light standard in left field or hit balls over the fence to the opposite field. He has adopted a wider base and a simpler approach at the plate this year, and he has impressed scouts with his ability to turn on inside fastballs or go the other way with sliders over the outer half. His plate discipline and ability to consistently barrel up a variety of pitches make him a safe bet to be at least an average hitter, and many scouts think he'll be better than that. Bryant's arm gives him another above-average tool. His athleticism gives him at least a chance to stick at third, although he'll need plenty more repetitions to master the position. Some scouts project him as a prototypical right fielder. He has average speed and can be faster under way, and he has shown good instincts in right and center. — Baseball America

Bryant was a possible first-rounder out of high school — I had him ranked 29th in that draft class — but fell due to signability concerns and a middling performance in his senior year. He largely resolved the latter issue as a freshman for the Toreros, raking for three straight years now.

He sets up with a very wide base and has no stride, just a toe-tap for timing. It’s a quiet swing overall, with excellent hip rotation for power, but his bat speed is just average or a tick better and I worry about his contact rates when he’s consistently facing guys throwing 90-plus in pro ball. He can murder a good fastball but I’m not sure how he’ll react to better off-speed stuff in the pros.

Now a third baseman, Bryant may not stay in the infield at all — he’s most likely to end up in right field, but would probably be above-average or better there, and I think there’s a non-zero chance he stays at third, where he has plenty of arm and some athleticism but doesn’t have the quick reactions a third baseman needs.

He’s probably a low-average/high-power hitter down the road, with a ceiling of .260-.270 averages (and likely less) but 30-homer potential as well, and I expect him to go in the first five picks. — Keith Law

GW had quite a bit on him draft day so check that out.

Scott Miller had a great article about him too.

Tons of great things can be said about Bryant's ability. Players who can hit for that kind of power aren't common, but we probably shouldn't be writing him into the lineup just yet.

Outlook

Seeing as the Cubs front office has been deliberate with prospects, I expect Bryant to return to High A, but I also expect his visit there to be brief. I think by May we'll see him in Tennessee and there's a chance the Cubs could move him there right away. Where he starts will give us a better idea of when we can expect to get a look at him at Wrigley Field.

AA will be his first true test and it sounds as if the Cubs could move him quickly. It's possible, but unlikely, that we could see him late in the year. I would guess mid-2015 would be the earliest. There's not really any rush and he's had so little professional experience to this point.

I'd have Javier Baez atop the Cubs prospects list, but Kris Bryant would follow shortly after. I actually think Bryant has a bit more potential due to his fantastic power, but both of them are high risk players. If Bryant can stick at 3rd he's got superstar potential.

2013 Cubs Prospect Reviews

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