20, I repeat 20 players have manned the hot corner for the Chicago Cubs since 2000. This is a sore subject for all Cubs fans (Like me!) who have seen the highly touted prospects such as Gary Scott, Kevin Orie and Josh Vitters fizzle in a Cubs uniform. Aramis Ramirez provided production for most of the 9 years he was in a Cubs uniform but he was not a home grown product. Kris Bryant is the next big thing at third base for the Cubs and despite the history at the position, fans should be excited. Of course, all this 3B talk could be worthless, if he is moved to a corner outfield spot.
So, who is Kris Bryant?
Kris Bryant was selected #2 overall in the 2013 MLB draft and was given the largest bonus of the draft at over $6.7 million. Currently MLB’s #9 rated prospect, Bryant was drafted out of University of San Diego where he racked up numerous awards including the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy given to the best college baseball player that year. He earned these by hitting 31 HR, more than 223 of the 298 teams in Division 1. He lead all of Division 1 baseball in 8 hitting categories, total HR(31), HR per game(.53), Runs(78), Runs per game(1.34), Walks(62), Walks per game(1.07), slugging percentage(.807) and total bases(185). The outstanding year Bryant had warranted all the hype at draft time and he did all of this in the BBCOR bat era. He might have broken all-time records if he was using the old aluminum bats. San Diego head coach Rich Hill said of Bryant, ““Adjectives don’t describe what Kris has done this season“. He continued, “Teams weren’t pitching to him, so we started having him hit in the leadoff spot in the batting order. Then teams had to pitch to him at least once a game.” That sounds like a stud to me.
Sounds like the Cubs might have a building block of the future to lead them where no Cubs team has gone in over 100 years!. The Cubs sent him to 3 different spots last year, ending up in High-A Daytona. He hit 9 HR in 128 AB in 2013 and then went on to hit 6 more in 77 AB during the Arizona Fall League, where he won the MVP. The kid is on everybody’s list of top young prospects in the game as he should be. The only questions that remain are when will he come up and will he stay at 3B or move to a corner outfield position. Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy look to share playing time this year at 3B and the trade for former top prospect Mike Olt has made the path for Bryant a little longer. Olt is coming off a crazy eye injury and will look to return to the form and maybe try to win the job this Spring Training. The platoon of Valbuena and Murphy is not the answer, just a stop gap. Javier Baez could also see time at 3B if he continues crushing minor league pitching. The Cubs will have to make room for him at the Major League level. I could see Olt getting an opportunity in the big leagues this year so the Cubs can see what they have. If Baez or Olt succeed at third, the Cubs will have to move Bryant to an OF position. The Cubs WILL find a position for him because they NEED his bat in the lineup. Bryant projects to be a 30 HR guy in the majors, a feat only accomplished by 14 players in 2013.
Bryant has mashed at all levels so far and many scouts predict that he will do the same when he gets his chance at the big league level. The hard part is determining if he will get his chance this year and can he provide fantasy value or will he just be a September call up. Either way, if you’re playing in a dynasty or keeper league, Bryant MUST be on your radar and you will be rewarded for taking him for years to come. For non-dynasty or keeper leagues, I would keep an eye on him and if you see the Cubs third basemen are slumping badly, look to pick him up over waiver wire as quickly as you can because once he sees the big leagues, he is not turning back! As a die hard Cubs fan, I hope and expect him to play in Chicago THIS YEAR.
Prediction: Bryant mashes at AA, struggles at AAA at first, then mashes there forcing the Cubs' hand into bringing him up this year.
2014 Projection: 9 HR, 24 RBI, 19 R, .265 AVG