Kris Bryant is already at the Chicago Cubs’ Spring Training complex in Arizona and is hard at work. By taking the initiative and going in early, he’s taken the first step toward becoming a successful big league player – a promising sign for the front office and fans alike.
His work ethic and his presence at camp long before position players are required to report show that he’s not satisfied with the hype that surrounds him; he’s out to prove it’s legitimate. But even if Bryant does prove it, will that be enough for him to be in the Opening Day lineup with the Cubs?
It’s a question that’s been on the minds of fans all winter long: is there anything Bryant can do to convince Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to forego the financial and service time implications and keep him with the big league club out of camp?
Many have said that Bryant should have been brought up last year; I was one of them.
But when you look at the big picture and see that bringing him up too early could cost the Cubs a year of control, the fact that he spent the season in the minors makes a lot more sense. That is huge, especially if Bryant does do what we all expect. Losing a year in arbitration could cost the Cubs of millions of dollars – especially given he is a Scott Boras client.
Each year, record-breaking numbers are being posted in arbitration cases for players who had great years. The club has to offer what they feel they can pay, the player’s agent has to do their job and ask for the market price – if not more.
Bryant needs to do a few things, I think, to make himself far too important to stay any longer in the minors than possible. Offensively, there isn’t much more Bryant can do to prove he’s ready after winning the MiLB Player of the Year award in 2014. One concern that could come to mind that once pitchers and coaches see his swing more, adjustments will be made. Will Bryant be able to make adjustments to counter those made by the pitchers?
Offspeed pitches like the change-up have given Bryant some problems in the minors. Swinging ahead of those pitches has caused a decent number of strikeouts in his minor league career. However that can be fixed with experience and seeing more major league pitching.
He’ll figure it out with time and confidence and will be able to turn on those offspeed pitches. The slider is another pitch that scouts have pointed out to cause Bryant to swing and miss. Again, it’s very fixable with time. His bat is not going to be an issue – but we all knew that.
One aspect that has been questioned is his defensive skills.
He’s a big man – does he have the footwork needed for the hot corner in the big leagues? Maybe not quite yet, but he’s actually a lot closer than you might think. This kid is an athlete and with work and repetition, he will get even better. Considering Bryant’s size, he is actually a lot better than one might expect when making the tougher plays at the hot corner. What Bryant has been known to have some trouble with is the actual standard fielding plays where his size may work against him.
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Bryant’s biggest strength on defense is his arm. He’s shown that he can make the running throws with ease while throwing a perfect strike to first base to get the runner out. The arm he has displayed is made for any position that Bryant could be asked to play. He doesn’t rush his throws – a big plus for a young player. The former first-round pick knows he has the power and accuracy behind his throws that rushing a toss is reckless and unnecessary.
Will that arm make him more likely to play the outfield? Time will tell.
One potential reason for keeping Bryant in the minors is the possible infield logjam that Chicago will have in the upcoming seasons. The amount of infield options the Cubs have now – and on the way to the big-time – are near-limitless. However, moving Bryant to the outfield could ease that stockpile, while adding a quality piece alongside fellow prospect Jorge Soler in the Cubs’ outfield.
Giving Bryant a few months in the minors to work on reading fly balls, hitting the cut-off man, etc. could pay dividends for years to come. What better excuse to keep him in the minors and hold off on starting his service time clock than working on a new position?
Ultimately, Epstein and Hoyer have had their plan and haven’t rushed it. If they feel Bryant needs to stay for any reason, it will happen. The slugger will do everything in his power to make that decision harder, but the plan has worked so far, why alter it now?
We’ve waited this long for a player like Kris Bryant, what is another few months?