Cubs prospect Kris Bryant is dominating; what’s next?


In the words of Brett Taylor, Got an award? No. Kris Bryant just took it.

Kris Bryant, of course, has been utterly dominant over the course of 56 Double-A games, slashing .351/.455/.688 in 244 plate appearances to earn multiple awards already.

As of June 3rd, Bryant has clubbed 18 homers and driven in 49. In 56 games. These gaudy numbers place Bryant as the Southern League’s leader in average, OBP, SLG, OPS, homers and RBIs. That’s everything Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer could have ever asked for entering Bryant’s first full professional season.

Bryant’s defense, however, hasn’t been on par with the rest of his incredible season, committing 10 errors in 147 chances, “good” for a .932 fielding percentage. His defensive woes at the hot corner may be the front office’s only legitimate reason not to bring him to Iowa right now (other than the fact that Christian Villanueva is the Triple-A club’s everyday third baseman).

Personally, I believe Bryant needs to start learning to play right field. Very soon. Bryant has the athleticism that can easily help him make the transition this season, and it could definitely speed up his track to the majors. At third base, the Cubs have Villanueva and Mike Olt at the upper levels, then you get to the outfield and things are incredibly dreary.

Bryant has a higher ISO (.337) than Nate Schierholtz‘ average (.212), OBP (.270) and SLG (.300), and while Bryant is of course just facing Double-A pitching, he’s obviously ready for that next challenge at Triple-A.

A 22-year-old with off-the-charts maturity and make-up, Bryant would presumably be able to handle a promotion right away to the next level at Iowa, where he would actually have a “challenge”, if you will.

This situation is somewhat familiar to Javier Baez‘ move from Daytona to Double-A Tennessee last season, in which Baez slashed .276/.338/.535 with 17 homers in 76 advanced A-ball games. Baez was promoted to Tennessee, obviously, and went on to finish the season even stronger, sporting a .294/.346/.638 triple-slash with 20 bombs in just 54 Double-A games.

Baez was clearly ready for that next challenge through 76 games to start the year, and the Cubs acted with a promotion to Double-A which ended up paying off big time. Bryant, while at about 20 games earlier than when Baez was promoted, has done more than enough to convince upper management that he’s ready to be promoted 20 games earlier than Baez was in `13.

There’s no harm that could be done to Bryant with a promotion to Iowa, no service time considerations, no immense pressure compared to that of the Major Leagues, and as has been stated, would give Bryant an actual challenge. If Bryant does get brought up to Iowa in the next week or two, things could get interesting come September.

If Bryant takes off in a big way similar to Baez after the inevitable promotion, there will be many heated debates among the fanbase. There will undoubtedly be those who will want to bring Bryant to Wrigley this September after a dominant stay in Triple-A, and there could be some validity to those arguments. This takes into account many, many “ifs”, and as my dad has always said, “this isn’t called if-ball, son”.

Bryant would really, really  have to convince Theo and Jed that the benefits of bringing him up would outweigh the backlash, such as losing an extra year of control. The most likely outcome, if there really even is one at this point, isn’t a big league promotion this year, but next April when the Cubs will gain an extra year of control of Bryant.

When we talk about a big league promotion with Bryant, the recent developments with Jonathan Singleton have to be discussed. Singleton, of course, a top prospect with absolutely zero Major League experience, agreed to a 5-year, $10 MM extension, and as if it wasn’t a great enough day for the 22-year-old (hey, Bryant is 22), the deal came with his first Major League call-up, and is now the starting first baseman for the Astros.

Completely avoiding any service time considerations with low risk (it’s just $10 million guaranteed for a team with incredible payroll flexibility) and a very high reward (if Singleton comes out and establishes himself as one of the top young players in these next couple years, guess who’s locked into a cheap deal) could become a very attractive option for teams such as the Cubs, as they handle situations like Bryant’s.

During the spring, many even thought Baez should be thrown into these discussions after the report came out that Springer rejected a 7-year, $23 MM deal.

But, it takes two to tango, and while the Cubs could definitely love to hand Bryant a deal like Singleton if he dominates Triple-A, Bryant is represented by Scott Boras, and has already made $6 MM in his career thanks to the draft.

While many understandably want Bryant hitting Dave Kingman-esque homers out of Wrigley as soon as this Mets series, the best course of action is for Bryant to remain in the minors. But, while it’s clear why he’s not with the Cubs, the I-Cubs should be printing up Bryant shirseys right now. Bryant definitely needs his next challenge to be Triple-A, not the Majors, and he’s clearly ready.

If Bryant indeed does pull a Baez after his impending promotion to Iowa and continues dominating, the Cubs will have something incredible to look forward to Opening Day 2015, if not sooner.