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kris bryant tennesseeChicago Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has been pretty productive in his professional career. After blowing away all offensive comers last year at San Diego, the Cubs made Bryant their first round draft pick (second overall), and he proceeded to whoop up on the Northwest League (short season Low-A) and the Florida State League (High-A).

Despite spending just 16 games (plus the playoffs) at High-A, the Cubs deemed Bryant ready for AA to start this year. And, yeah, he’s ready.

So far, Bryant sports a .331/.437/.624 line with the Tennessee Smokies, and just won the Southern League’s Player of the Week honors. His team has the deets on the win:

Mostly I just love that his outrageously good week – a week so good that it topped all other offensive players in the league – wasn’t that much better than how he’s been performing the whole rest of the year so far. He’s just been that good.

Bryant, 22, has 10 homers, which leads the Southern League by three. His .331 batting average and .624 SLG also lead the league. His .437 OBP is second in the league, behind only his teammate, catcher Rafael Lopez (.456). His 9 doubles are 10th in the league, and, just for fun, his 5 stolen bases are 14th.

None of this surprises you, because you’ve known that Bryant has been killing the ball all year. A promotion to AAA is likely to come mid-year, with a big league debate to follow shortly thereafter (get him the big league experience heading into 2015? save the 40-man spot for the offseason? delay his service time accumulation until late April next year so that the Cubs get an extra year of control?).

Bryant’s got 43 Ks in 158 plate appearances (27.2%), which suggests there’s still something he could be working on. Obviously you don’t give a hoot about the strikeouts if a guy is producing like Bryant, but you do give a hoot if the K rate implies that better pitching (particularly more experienced pitching that can consistently command and locate breaking pitches) is going to exploit any serious holes in his swing. He’s a huge guy who’s always going to strike out at a healthy clip, but being above 25% at AA is something to monitor.

For me, I pretty much don’t yet have an opinion on what the Cubs should do with Bryant, vis a vis the big leagues. The K issues need to be monitored, and if the Cubs said it was a reason to slow-play him through AA and AAA, I could very much buy it – you don’t want a guy trying to work out those issues for the first time in the big leagues. And, as Javier Baez has showed us this year, it is conceivable that a guy can dominate at AA (but with tons of strikeouts), and then need some time to adjust to better pitching at AAA.

Having Bryant under control for an extra year is certainly no small thing (waiting for the Super Two deadline on Bryant (i.e., July-ish 2015) might not be realistic, fair, or necessary), and that militates strongly in favor of waiting to promote Bryant until late April 2015, at the earliest. On the other hand, if the Cubs believe promoting him to the big leagues in August/September this year will put him in the best position to succeed long-term, then obviously, you do it. Were the Cubs competitive this year, of course, this entire conversation probably looks a little different.

We don’t know what is specifically in the plans for Bryant, so we’ll have to wait and see. For now, AAA is the first next step on the horizon.

Picture via Smokies Facebook page.

  • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

    This kids is the only sure bet at MLB success. He is ready, but no way he moves to MLB this year. I am sure he has a great chance of being at AAA this season, then most of next…The extra year of control is all business. He is better than 1/2 the current roster, he is that ready…

    We can talk about his bb rate of k rate..but if we had drafted Bryce Harper, he would be in AAA “working” on things..

    I think he is up AUG 2015 and ( if sooner ) great I was wrong with my prediction and his MLB development begins.

    • Funn Dave

      That’s been said about each of the Big Four (except maybe Soler) at various points throughout the last few years. Why? Because there’s no such thing as a sure bet at MLB success.

    • Q-Ball

      There is no such thing a sure bet at MLB success. See my comment below; #2 pick Moose-Tacos demolished 4 levels in the minors. He’s likely headed back there.

  • Darth Ivy

    “get him the big league experience heading into 2015?”

    Yes.

    MVP.

  • E

    I’d like to see him dominate AAA for awhile before coming to Chicago.

    • Thiscantbegood

      Id like to see a Baez and Bryant 3, 4 in the AAA lineup everyday for a couple months before they both get called up to the BIGS.

      • smackafilieyo

        Throw In Soler too…I have a feeling he’ll be starting in the bigs by spring of next year due to his contract…..but Baez, Bryant, Soler looks like murder row

        • Brocktoon

          Soler’s contract has nothing to do with team control. If it’s never torn up then he has washed out.

          • DarthHater

            The contract doesn’t get torn up. Once Soler becomes eligible for arbitration, he can opt out of the contractual salary amount and into arbitration instead. But you’re right that, if he doesn’t exercise that option, it will probably mean that he’s playing poorly.

            • Brocktoon

              How exactly is opting out of the contract not tearing it up? You’re right, they don’t actually have a formal ceremony where the contract is torn in half.

              • Darth Ivy

                bc arbitration would be congruent with the contract.The contract allows for arb.

                • Brocktoon

                  This is really pointless semantics. When somebody opts out of a contract, they’re tearing it up because the stated salaries in there are no longer being used.

              • DarthHater

                He would not be opting out of the contract, he would be exercising one option under the terms of the contract. As I understand it (and nobody outside the people involved has actually read the thing), the option would change his salary, but would not affect the other terms of the contract. In particular, I don’t thing the length of the deal is affected (although there is debate on this and I have heard Brett express doubt about it in the past). It’s not just a semantic difference because contracts contain many provisions besides salary amount that would not be “torn up.”

                You know, this really was a fairly minor point and I think my initial comment was perfectly civil, so I don’t really see the need to be a sarcastic smart-ass about it.

                • DarthHater

                  *thing=think

                • Brocktoon

                  The length of the contract won’t matter at this point because he only has 6+ years left on the original contract.

  • Q-Ball

    In other #2 pick news, Mike Moustakos is facing a potential demotion to Omaha. Not to rain on Kris’s parade, but just goes to show the volatility of all prospects, and that in baseball nothing is a for sure thing…..

    • Karl Groucho

      And that even a well-regarded rebuild is no sure thing!

      • ssckelley

        Exactly, Kansas City looked like they were going to be good for a long time with that highly rated farm system. If Mike Moustakas ends up being a bust that would put a big hurt on the Royals, they were counting on him like many Cub fans are counting on Kris Bryant.

  • jammin502

    I think it will come down to whether you stick to your guns on the development policy or do you want to sell tickets in 2015. The way the MLB team looks right now it could be the worst in the Ricketts’ era. The pitching level at the MLB level is very good with the window maybe closing in the next year or two. The offense is easily the problem. Put Bryant in AAA right with the hope that he is ready for 2015. Maybe with him hitting behind Baez, he will also be better for it.

  • Boccabella12

    As a Des Moinesiac, I want him to stay in AAA just long enough for me to see him do something amazing once or twice — say, hit balls into the river back-to-back with Baez. After that, let him conquer the world.

    • Diego Javier

      Yes. This.

      Also if you want to see Kane county play, they will be in CR playing the Kernals (Twins) for a couple series in Aug. Just finished a series there a couple weeks ago. Holy Pitching.

  • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

    Bryant will be a MLB star…I don’t feel that way about Soler / Almora. I hope Soler continues to develop and turns out to be great…But service time , not development time is the issue..

    but Jammin502 talks about selling tickets and getting the fans excited..that is a real thing too. So who knows…!

  • Diego Javier

    I haven’t seen anthing in Soler that suggests he couldn’t be a MLB star. The guy had some bad injury luck, but man he can rake.

  • Ivy Walls

    I think Bryant is proving again that linear plans regarding humans in a competitive sports setting are BS. Bryant won’t be served much going to Iowa except if it were to hone his OF skills, which is where he will go unless the Cubs trade Olt. Bryant is hitting well over .400 wOBA, and Olt is hitting .315 wOBA in at the MLB level and that appears to be creeping up where just a few less K’s and a few more dinks and snorts Olt will be up close to .330 wOBA quite respectable for a rookie 3B. Bryant on the other hand could be a plus .375 wOBA first year out of the box and the Cubs need desperately to score runs. So bring him up along with Alcantara and let us get on with it.

    • Norm

      Why do people continue to believe that AAA has nothing to offer beyond AA?

    • Brocktoon

      Olt has a .302 wOBA to go with an anemic 9.3% LD% (Would be last among all qualifiers if he had enough ABs) Add in a GB/FB below 1, and his BABIP is where it is because he’s not making the type of contact that leads to hits. His already poor numbers are actually being propped up by a 26.9% HR/FB that is probably unsustainable.

      • Karl Groucho

        It may only be a little unsustainable rather than a lot, however. A TTO comp: Adam Dunn has a career 22% HR/FB rate.

        Which inspires me to ask: is there minor league batted ball data floating around?

        • Brocktoon

          FG has BABIP so you don’t have to calculate it yourself. Not sure of any place to find the hard data.

          • Karl Groucho

            Yeah, I’m referring to LD% etc. According to a THT article back in Jan 2011 MLBAM keeps track of this, but I don’t know anywhere that compiles it for reader reference.

    • Brocktoon

      And a .375 wOBA would put Bryant at 20th in all of MLB as a rookie. I think people need to reel in the immediate expectations a bit.

  • Cubbies4Life

    I’m with Boccabella12. Fans in DM are having all kinds of fun watching our I-Cubbies kick butt. A welcome palate cleansing after watching the big Cubbies suck it hard day after day (sigh). I want to see Baez and Bryant shine every home game in our beautiful little ball park!

  • NorthSideIrish

    Jim Callis ‏@jimcallisMLB 6m
    Not at all. Still a stud. @pickcubs: how worried should #Cubs fans be about Baez’s very slow start at Iowa?

    Not that all Cubs fans want to believe it…

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Parks had a list of tweets too

      Jason Parks ‏@ProfessorParks 53m
      But I would still rank Baez higher than Bryant on a prospect list because of his extreme upside. Higher risk/franchise altering reward.

      Jason Parks ‏@ProfessorParks 40m
      Hell yes. But that’s ceiling not floor. RT @RyanForMVP @ProfessorParks Do you still stand behind when you said Baez could become a legend?

      Jason Parks ‏@ProfessorParks 34m
      Re: Baez. His floor is an up/down AAAA type. RT @BJ_Haley @RyanForMVP @ProfessorParks @RyanForMVP what’s the floor?

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        Baez has probably dropped a few hat sizes since spring training. A few servings of humble pie will do him good.

    • Karl Groucho

      Any time Baez comes up in a fangraphs chat, those guys seem generally on-board as well. It’s far too early to do much more than wait and see. As we can extrapolate from the mood swings on these comment boards between wins and losses by a team we all know will finish in the bottom five, however, following things very closely tends to correlate with more pronounced feelings in spite of ourselves.

      • ssckelley

        Yeah I don’t get what all these “experts” see in Baez. Granted he has OMG power, and when he makes contact the ball comes off his bat like he is destroying it. But with all the contact issues he has and movement in the batters box I still think he has a lot to work on before he can become an OMG major league player. Everyone keeps saying that history will repeat himself and that he will make the adjustments, well, what if that doesn’t happen? I am not saying I am hitting the panic button on Baez but just because he did this twice last year in Daytona and Tennessee doesn’t mean he will suddenly be able to hit the breaking ball stuff that they throw in AAA.

        • Karl Groucho

          I think the notion is that a baby Adam Dunn at SS would be a hugely valuable player. Keep in mind: Jose Reyes in 2005 put up 1.8 WAR when sporting a 80 wRC+ (to be fair, helped more than a bit through baserunning). Adam Dunn that same year was worth 3.0 WAR while playing miserable 1B/LF defense, driven in large part by a .540 SLG.

          Baez isn’t likely to walk like Dunn, but if he can put up .240/.300/.490 while playing SS he’s sporting the second-best OPS of all MLB SSs as of today. To say: he never has to be a complete player to be one of the best at his position.

          Of course that doesn’t address your point re: his development, but it does get to why experts droll over him in theory (and as he’s performed so far in MiLB, at an age much younger than his competitors).

          • ssckelley

            I always wondered what it would be like to have a Rob Deer or Gorman Thomas type hitter playing shortstop. You make a great point, if he can hit like that while playing 2nd or shortstop then his bat will project really well.

            • Karl Groucho

              That’s really what it comes down to, and why he even has a bit more value at SS than 2B assuming he fields both equally well.

              (I should also note that I read the wrong thing above. He would be sixth this year in SS OPS if he was putting up a .790; he’d have been .001 away from second last season with that figure.)

  • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

    I am glad we have them both…Bryant is better…

  • another JP

    That Smokies lineup is unbelievable… now has six players with OBP over .400. Bryant, Soler, Andreoli, and Bruno will all be on promotion watch as of next month.

  • MightyBear

    Get him to Iowa now. Defense and K’s he can work on at the next level. Not being challenged by AA pitching. I don’t know what was on Theo’s list of goals for this guy but he’s probably met them.

    • Brocktoon

      Again, I ask, if he’s not being challenged by pitchers, why is he striking out 27% of the times he comes to bat?

      • Karl Groucho

        In before “it’s just part of his game.”

      • Edwin

        If he’s being challeneged by pitchers, why is he getting on base 43.7% of the time and slugging .624?

        • Brocktoon

          Because he’s an amazing hitter when he makes contact. That doesn’t mean there are no challenges left for him at AA.

          • Hee Seop Chode

            Are you waiting for him to bat 1.00/1.00/100,000?

        • Norm

          Maybe, SOME pitchers are challenging and SOME are not?
          A blanket statement “AA isn’t challenging him” is crazy.

          • Edwin

            He has a wRC+ over 200. AA isn’t challenging him enough.

            • Brocktoon

              Is there no limit to minor league K rate when a player has a certain wRC+? Was Olt’s 168 enough to not be concerned with his 24%? How about Baez’s 180/28.8?

    • Hee Seop Chode

      +1. I hope he’s not being held down because of Iowa’s outfield logjam.

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  • 5412

    Hi,

    Based on what Brett wrote, Bryant should be headed to AAA asap. If there is a concern about strikeouts, the sooner we find out, the better. What good is it to have him continue to clobber AA pitching if he is not being challenged?

    As far as another year of control, that is true but BS from my perspective. Prey tell, what is going to happen to cause season ticket holders to want to renew their tickets unless it is more HOPE than they have received the last few years. Holding him back a year is penny wise and pound foolish.

    If he gets to FA a year earlier, pay him the going rate because a winning team should pay for itself by the increased value of TV rights plus sell out crowds.

    regards,
    5412

    • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

      He should never get to FA…Cubs will attempt to sign him to some sort long-term deal after they see he’s “a sure thing”. So I’d agree put him up to AAA come late June.

      Villanueva, Alcantara, and Baez have all struggled so far… is Iowa cursed?

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