Every time I hear “light tower power” I can’t help but think of this song. RIP, Macho Man.
Kris Bryant is a Nevada native who was selected with the second overall pick in the 2013 Entry Draft. The player picked ahead of him was Mark Appel, who was originally drafted in 2009 but went the college route and earned a first overall pick. Bryant was also drafted once before, back in 2010 by Toronto, but much like Appel, he declined to sign with the team.
If talking about a “mass of humanity” then Bryant’s name should be at the top of the list. Standing 6-foot-5 and around 220 lbs, Bryant is built for power. He showed that power in college when he led NCAA in home runs in 2013. In fact, over his three years of college, Bryant hit 54 home runs in 172 games. To go with it, and this is again over a three year career, Bryant managed a slugging percentage over .700. There is some serious power in his bat.
In an article written nearly three months ago by CBS’s Jon Heyman, he quotes several baseball executives who seemed like they couldn’t pick their jaws off the floor. They were fawning over his power, one of whom thought he had future 50-home run potential. Obviously, all these anonymous executive conversations have to be taken with a grain of salt, there are few hitters every drafted that ever live up to 50 home run potential (for the record, 27 players have ever hit 50 home runs and two in the last six seasons). What it does is show exactly how high those inside baseball think of Bryant and the tremendous upside he does have.
As far as his glove goes, who cares. Not literally, of course, but he’s not being drafted for his defense. There’s a reason why he’s been transitioned over his career from an outfielder to a third baseman. Bryant’s probably suited for first base – a 6-foot-5, 220 lb third baseman isn’t common – but with Anthony Rizzo showing the promise that the Cubs traded for, there is a need to fill at the other corner of the diamond. Bryant should be fine, though, as his arm is strong enough to play third. There might be some adventures on hot shots to the corner, though. SBNation’s Minor League Ball blog had a profile on Bryant about a year and a half ago. The blog discusses mostly about how he doesn’t have great lateral movement. If he struggles at the plate whenever he gets called up, it won’t be his glove keeping him in the lineup.
Coming out of college, it was expected that Bryant would be a bit further along in his development than most prospects. That’s why after he was drafted, Bryant went from Rookie ball to High-A in a matter of months. Over the course of those couple of months, Bryant posted a .336 batting average and an OPS of 1.078 in 128 at-bats. There’s a reason why he advanced so quickly.
So far this season, Bryant is off to a nice start at Double-A Tennessee. Through 113 plate appearances, Bryant has a slash line of .290/.416/.538. He has five home runs and eight doubles to go along with the slash line, with nearly half of his hits (13/27) being of the extra-base variety. It seems like it shouldn’t be long before Bryant gets the call up to Triple-A.
As much as I drool all over my keyboard when reading about skilled, powerful prospects that are on the cusp of the Majors, it’s necessary to exercise some caution here.
Bryant strikes out a lot. He owns a 25.9-percent strikeout rate over his minor league career at time of writing (259 plate appearances from Rookie ball to Double-A). A 25-percent strikeout rate in a full MLB season means about 163 strikeouts. From 2010-2013, there were 35 instances where a player struck out at least 163 times in a season. Of those 35 players, 23 of them hit .250 or less and nearly half (17 of 35) hit under .240. That means that unless he gets a pile of luck and doesn’t get a better approach at the plate in the Majors than he has across the minor leagues, Bryant will struggle to consistently hit .250 once he gets the call.
The next thing is just how hard it is to hit home runs at the top level of baseball. From 2010-2013, there was one player who hit 30 home runs as a rookie and that was Mike Trout (yes, it seems like Jose Abreu will probably do that this year, but he’s a 27-year-old professional). As is a good general rule to follow, expecting anyone to do what Mike Trout does is not a good idea.
When Bryant gets the call to the Majors is another story. If he does what he has been doing for another month there’s no doubt he should be headed to Triple-A fairly soon. That would seem to make anything before a September call-up for the Cubs unlikely. He still needs time to adjust as a professional hitter. For that reason, those in re-draft leagues shouldn’t concern themselves with him just yet.
Once Bryant gets the call, he should be in the Top-6 of the Cubs lineup and could even find his way to clean-up behind Anthony Rizzo. That’s a pretty good spot to be to produce. Again, unless he catches a hot streak, he will struggle for a passable average. There is one pile of power here, though, and it’s not like third base is a deep position this year. He’s a must-add in most leagues once he gets the call at the end of 2014 with an eye to regular playing time in 2015.