With an off-day yesterday, and one of the biggest events of the year kicking off last night (continuing today at 12pm CT), there isn’t a ton of Bullet material today that isn’t completely tone deaf of the fact that one of the biggest events of the year kicked off last night. So you’re going to get two sets of Bullets today, a set on each of the Cubs’ picks from the first day of the Draft. Up first is the organization’s highest pick since they took Mark Prior second overall back in 2001. That would be third baseman Kris Bryant.
The only non-Bryant bit I’ll give you is this: make sure you don’t forget to sign up for today’s fantasy contest. It’s an $11 contest with a massive $500 prize pool, and a $5 bonus if you beat me. The full details are here. Check it out.
Ok. On to the Bryant Bullets …
- First, the final numbers for Bryant’s record-setting season: 31 homers in 62 games. 66 walks and 44 strikeouts in 302 plate appearances. A batting line of .329/.493/.820. Obviously these are video game numbers, and, although they matter, you have to keep in mind that Bryant played in a lesser conference, and that we’re talking only about 62 games’ worth of college stats. There’s only so much you can take away from them. What matters is what the scouts are saying – and fortunately, they all think Bryant’s a stud.
- Assuming he signs, Bryant will be a third baseman to start his career with the Cubs. Although there are questions about his ability to stick there – in part because he’s 6’5″, and could still fill out quite a bit more – there’s no reason to move him off of a premium position right now. He’ll likely start out in rookie ball out in Arizona as he adjusts to the Cubs’ system (The Cubs Way) and getting back into wooden bats. My guess is he finishes the year at High-A Daytona, with an eye toward starting at AA Tennessee in 2014 – or at least working his way there by midseason. From there, an MLB debut in the second half of 2014 isn’t completely out of the question, especially if he’s playing well at third base.
- Assuming he signs, Bryant will immediately become a top four prospect in the Cubs’ system, joining The Big Three of Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora. Where he’d fall into that group (hell, how you rank the other three) is largely a matter of taste. That group of four will arguably be the best foursome of positional prospects of any system in baseball (the Sano/Buxton duo in Minnesota, together whatever two prospects you grab, could give ’em a run for their money).
- Speaking of signing, there doesn’t seem to be any concerns about getting a deal done. The Cubs likely had many, many conversations with Bryant about what it would take to sign him – including during their extra long delay between picks one and two last night (the Cubs were assuredly frantically calling Bryant’s reps and/or Jonathan Gray’s reps and trying to nail down the right deal). Coming off an historic season at San Diego, and being selected number two, Bryant’s not going to increase his value markedly by returning to school. He’ll sign, and the only question is whether he’ll sign for under the number two slot value of $6.7 million. Seems a reasonable argument that, since he likely would have been taken by the Rockies at number three (slot value of $5.6 million), Bryant’s not going to sign for less than $5.6 million. Maybe the Cubs can split the difference, and sign him for something in the $6 million range? That doesn’t save them a huge amount toward later overslot signings, but it’s definitely something.
- Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod was complimentary of Bryant soon after the pick was made, naturally. Nothing too surprising in his comments – Bryant was the right guy for the Cubs for the near and long-term.
- Bryant, himself, sounds like a confident guy, as you’d expect a top prospect to be. “I obviously think that I can play in the big leagues now,” Bryant told the media after the Draft, per CSN. “I have that type of confidence in myself. [But] that’s not my decision. I’ll leave that up to the guys in charge …. Deep down, I absolutely think that [I could make a quick impact like a Mike Trout or a Bryce Harper]. I think every ballplayer should think that. You should think that you can go out there and play with the best of the best, because I’ve been doing that my whole life.” And before you accuse him of arrogance, understand that he was asked questions that are geared to elicit these kinds of quotes. But there’s definitely some confidence there.
- A long pre-Draft profile on Bryant in the San Diego Union Tribune. Similarly, Scott Miller profiled Bryant in a column I linked yesterday, but which carries a little more interest now that the Cubs have drafted him. One interesting tidbit from the SDUT piece: when the Blue Jays drafted Bryant out of high school a few years ago in the 18th round, they offered him a huge signing bonus in the $1 million to $1.2 million range. Even then, he was a big-time draft prospect – and he obviously made the right decision to go to school.
- John Sickels is high on Bryant: “The best bat in the draft, Bryant is a 6-5, 205 bruiser with outstanding right-handed power and the ability to hit the ball out of any park to all fields. He also has good pure hitting skills, controls the strike zone well, and has a chance to stick at third. Even if he moves over to first base, this is an All-Star bat that draws Troy Glaus comparisons, though he could have better hitting skills than Glaus did.”
- At least one BP report on Bryant is not overly enthused, grading him out as an average hitter (albeit one with huge power) who almost certainly can’t stick at third base. The report also points out Bryant’s purported struggles against better pitching, and a “checkered” history with using wood bats. Although the report sees Bryant as a possible top five pick in the Draft (the report was from May 30), it calls him a 7 to 15 prospect in a typical draft. If you want an even more robust take on Bryant from BP (same author), here’s a look.
- And a few videos on Bryant from MLB.com, Bullpen Banter and Keith Law (here, here and here, if they don’t display for you):