The Cubs farm system had a pretty good week. Albert Almora and Mark Zagunis hit for the cycle on the same day, Keith Law ranked four of the Cubs prospects among the best 50 minor league players in the game with Kris Bryant topping his list, Javier Baez made the first starts of his pro career at second base, and the home run party that started on a Thursday night that saw several of the top prospects hitting home runs nearly simultaneously.
The top prospect in the Cubs’ system continues making headlines exactly one calendar year after taking his first swings in professional baseball. And what a year it has been for the number two overall pick in the draft.
Counting the 20 games he played in the AFL and not counting the at bats he received during Daytona’s Championship run, Kris Bryant has played 152 games over the last year. In 132 games in the minors, Bryant went 165-for-481 with 42 doubles, two triples, 42 home runs, 116 RBI, 67 walks, and 148 strikeouts for a .343/.428/.701 line with a 1.128 OPS. In 20 games in the AFL last fall, Bryant was 28-for-77 with eight doubles, a triple, six home runs, 17 RBI, 14 walks, and 23 strikeouts for a .364/.457/.727 line with a 1.184 OPS.
In 10 fewer games than a full Major League season, Kris Bryant was 193-for-558 with 50 doubles, three triples, 48 home runs, 133 RBI, 81 walks, 171 strikeouts, 101 extra basehits and 92 singles for a .346/.430/.704 line with a 1.134 OPS.
Kris Bryant played his first game with the AZL Cubs on July 21, 2013 and he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. After just two games in rookie ball, the front office moved him to Boise where he went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his first game with the Hawks. Bryant adjusted to the pitching in the Northwest League, skipped Kane County and finished the year in Daytona where the front office thought he would struggle for the first time.
The Cubs decided to send him to the Arizona Fall League to make up the at bats he missed between the draft and signing with the team. Instead of struggling, Bryant earned and MVP award and hit .364/.457/.727/1.184 with eight doubles, a triple and six home runs.
After spending the first half of Spring Training with the big league team, Bryant reported to minor league camp and started the season in the Double-A level and earned a promotion to Triple-A Iowa before he was bumped up a level and that much closer to the majors. Bryant has played 28 games for Iowa and still leads the Southern League in home runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS a month later.
In 96 games this year (68 for Double-A Tennessee and 28 for Triple-A Iowa), Kris Bryant is batting .346/.441/.705 with 28 doubles, 33 home runs, 84 RBI, 11 stolen bases, 56 walks, 113 strikeouts, 249 total bases and a 1.146 OPS.
Kris Bryant has continued putting up numbers at the plate while working on his defense at third. Bryant leads the minor leagues with 33 home runs, which means the home run leader in the National League and in the minor leagues are both in the Chicago Cubs organization.
Despite what Scott Boras thinks, Kris Bryant knows he has work to do at the plate and in the field before he is ready for the big leagues. Bryant has to work on his approach at the plate, pitch recognition and cutting down on the strikeouts. Bryant hits to all fields and is learning how to hit the advanced pitching at the Triple-A level.
The minor league box scores and highlight videos are fun to watch, as Jed Hoyer said Monday, but the front office knows there is still a lot of hard work to do in the minors before the prospects begin filtering into the majors. Then the really hard work begins … learning how to consistently perform in the big leagues and most importantly, winning ballgames at the highest level.
Kris Bryant will continue to make headlines and be the focus in the minor leagues. And while it’s only been a year, what a year it’s been for the top prospect in the Cubs system.