If you miss your spot up and away on Kris Bryant, he will crush you to the opposite field:
I mean, if you miss over the middle, he’ll crush you, too. Or low. Or inside. Or on a pitch-out. Or on a football field.
That oh-so-easy-looking opposite field bomb was Bryant’s 19th of the year, and his performance yesterday brought up his season line at AA to a LOL-inducing .353/.460/.700. And that comes after a month in which he was so dominant that he won every award, including being named the Cubs’ minor league player of the month.
His OPS just keeps climbing, as improbable as that is. We’re currently watching one of the best stretches of minor league hitting we’re ever going to see (Baez last year at AA was the same kind of thing, but this is even more extreme). That is not hyperbole.
So, Bryant is soon headed for AAA, right? It’s the question we asked after every fantastic performance, and it’s the question that is always met by the same answer: “Yes, but hold on just a little bit longer.”
Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer addressed the Kris Bryant promotion question yesterday, and the answer was similar.
“It is fun to see a guy put up that kind of month,” Hoyer said, per ESPN. “We tell every prospect to go dominate. He’s obviously doing that. We probably want to see it for a little while longer …. It’s been only two months at that level and he’s sort of been skipping up through the system without a lot of time at one level.”
The implication is very much what it was when Hoyer last addressed the issue: it’s just a matter of time – literally – before Bryant heads up to AAA. Generally-speaking, I have no problem with a conservative promotion approach, given the possibility for a small sample to fool you into thinking a guy is ready for the leap. In Bryant’s specific case, however, there no longer seems to be any risk of a quickly-regretted promotion. If Bryant heads to AAA and struggles, it’s not like there can be any second-guessing about whether the Cubs did right by him and promoted him too early.
Further, we don’t know exactly what is in Bryant’s individual player development plan, and the things he’s working on before his promotion. There could still be defensive or baserunning issues to deal with – minor though they may seem, it’s all still an important piece of the pie.
Also an important piece of the pie? Ancillary considerations like what happens to Christian Villanueva, a legitimate third base prospect at AAA Iowa, when Bryant is promoted? The Cubs want to give Villanueva a chance to adjust at AAA (which it looks like he needs more time to do) – does moving him off third cause a problem with his development? Is that enough of a reason to hold Bryant down, though? Could Villanueva go to AA, or would that hurt his progress? Is that enough of a reason to hold Bryant down?
There are also – sorry to say it – service time considerations at play in the background. The sooner Bryant reaches AAA and possibly kills it there, the sooner the Cubs will be confronted with a decision about bringing Bryant up to the big club. Development remains the most important thing, because the Cubs’ goal is to get Bryant to a place where he’s the best version of himself that he could possibly be. But, in tandem with that, it sure would be nice to be able to secure an extra year of control* over a stud like Bryant by keeping him down until late April. If he had come to AAA in May and dominated there for months and months, that’s a tough thing to pull off with a straight face.
Take it all together, put it in the Decision Machine and pull the lever. To me, you come up with a promotion to AAA in mid-June, and a stay there in Iowa for the rest of the season. I think that’s probably what we’re going to see, and I think it’s pretty reasonable.
*(We’re way too far out to contemplate whether the Cubs could/should hold him down until next June to prevent Super Two status, and, in any case, if the guy’s a stud and clearly ready, I’m all for just letting him achieve Super Two. Yes, it costs the organization more money, and that matters, but once you’ve gotten that extra year of control – that’s the big one, to me – you’ve clear the major service time hurdle. (There’s also the matter of Bryant taking up a 40-man roster spot all offseason if he’s promoted this year. (And if you’re really cynical, you mention something about Bryant possibly helping the Cubs win a couple unnecessary games later this year if he’s promoted to the big leagues.)))