Chicago Cubs prospect Kris Bryant hit his 17th homer last night (pfft, only one?), and organizations featuring teams in the Southern League have to be hearing some version of the ‘Bed Intruder’ song playing in their heads when a pitching prospect in need of confidence is set to take the mound against the Tennessee Smokies (“Hide yo pitchers, hide yo baseballs, because Kris Bryant is destroying everything out here”).
Before last night’s game, Bryant was featured at the top of Baseball America’s prospect hot sheet, because obviously: “We’re nearing the one-year anniversary of the 2013 draft and the Cubs have every reason to be thrilled with their first-round pick. Bryant ranks third in the minors in home runs thanks to an 11-bomb power binge this month. He’s hitting for average, drawing walks and generally proving to be the most frightening hitter any Southern League pitcher faces. Yes, Bryant strikes out more than one would like, a price for his power, and he’s not yet a reliable third baseman (10 errors and a .930 fielding percentage), but he’s effectively lived up to every bit of his pre-draft scouting report.”
Bryant is the kind of post-draft prospect that, if he’s on any other team, we’re all thinking, “Man, why can’t the Cubs draft a guy who looks like a stud pre-draft, and then just immediately explodes into the professional ranks and tears it up so completely?” Well, Bryant is that guy, and the Cubs have him.
It seems like every day, Bryant’s 10-game line improves. It’s up to .455/.591/1.091 over his last 10 games (11 BB, 9 K, 6 HR, 3 2B). His eyes, in the meantime, are still magnetic, offering the warmth of a mother’s love, and the stillness of azure skies.
So, Bryant’s headed for AAA any day now, right? Well, maybe, but Cubs manager Ricky Renteria told Cubs.com that the organization is “comfortable” with where Bryant is right now, and suggested there’s always things a guy can learn.
Totally fair. It hasn’t even been a year since Bryant was drafted, after all.
I do think, however, that we’ve reached the point where Bryant is not going to be challenged by the pitching at AA for any extended period of time, so that ship has sailed. If there are specific things he can work on (including defensively), then that’s fine. But I suspect we’ll see Bryant promoted to AAA around mid-June – and the Cubs will have to figure out what to do with AAA third baseman Christian Villanueva, who is a legit prospect (even if not quite in Bryant’s class).
I wouldn’t call it a “concern,” but the Cubs will have to consider their message if Bryant does arrive at AAA in mid-June, and proceeds to destroy AAA in the same fashion he tore up AA. The calls to see him at Wrigley Field in August and September will be overwhelming, even if not entirely reasonable (no cookies!). It’s a good problem to have, obviously, but it’s just something to keep on the radar. Perhaps a taste of the bigs this year will be appropriate for Bryant’s development, and I leave that decision to the Cubs’ developmental staff.
If he were called up after playing well at AAA, not only would there be service time considerations (a call up this year means Bryant reaches free agency a year earlier than if the Cubs waited to call him up until late April next year), but there’s also the 40-man roster spot that Bryant would occupy all offseason. In an organization that likes to play at the roster margins, that matters at least a little bit (having an available spot in the offseason, for example, is how the Cubs got current closer Hector Rondon).