Today’s report will introduce the CCO’s Minor League Player of the Year for 2014. All position players starting the season in April with Kane County, Daytona, Tennessee, and Iowa were considered. Only players remaining in the minors for the entire minor league season were eligible for the award.
The CCO Minor League Player of the Year – Kris Bryant, 3B
Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America, USA Today, and Yahoo Sports, the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year, and now, the CCO Minor League Player of the Year, third baseman Kris Bryant.
A three-year starter at the University of San Diego after being a high school All-American, Kris Bryant led the nation with 31 home runs in his junior season, batting .329 with 62 RBI. For that, Bryant won both the Dick Howser Trophy and the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s best college baseball player. Drafted by the Cubs with the second overall pick, a prolonged negotiation kept Bryant from the opening of both the rookie league and Short-Season A ball.
After not playing baseball since early June, Bryant was sent to Arizona to scrape off the rust in the rookie league. There seemed to be plenty of rust as Bryant managed only one hit and made three errors in two games. Nevertheless, Bryant was shipped off to Short-Season A Boise where he looked like a completely different player. Blasting a home run in his second at bat, Bryant batted .354/.416/.692 with eight doubles, a triple, four home runs and 16 RBI in 18 games as the Hawks went 10-8 over that span.
Bryant was then skipped to High-A Daytona rather than spending any time at Low-A Kane County. As in his debut with Boise, Bryant homered in his first game with the D-Cubs and went on to hit .333/.387/.719 with five doubles, a triples, five homers and 14 RBI in 16 games. For the regular season, Bryant was a composite .336/.390/.688/1.078 with 14 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 32 RBI. After booting three balls in rookie league, Bryant committed only three more errors the rest of the way, fielding .955 for Boise and .975 for Daytona.
Opening the season at Double-A Tennessee, Bryant torched Southern League pitching from the very start, batting .355 with a .458 on-base percentage, a .702 slugging average, and an OPS of 1.160. Bryant was named a mid-season All-Star by the Southern League and went 1-for-5 in the All-Star game. Two days later, Bryant was a member of Triple-A Iowa. Even though Bryant played only 68 games and was no longer a member of the Smokies, Bryant still finished second in the Southern League with 22 home runs, and his 58 RBI were good for 19th in the league.
Moving on to the Pacific Coast League, Bryant did not skip a beat. Although he played in only 70 games, his 21 home runs tied for 13th in the league. Bryant’s other numbers were not adversely effected by the jump in competition, as he hit .295 with a .418 on-base percentage, .619 slugging, 1.036 OPS, and 52 RBI. That raised Bryant’s season totals to a .325/.438/.661/1.098 line with 34 doubles, a triple, 43 home runs, 110 RBI, and 15 stolen bases in 138 games. A concern for Bryant coming into this season was his defense at third base. Overall, Bryant posted an acceptable .944 fielding average, but saw an improvement to .963 as a member of the Iowa Cubs when he played alongside shortstops Javier Baez and Elliot Soto.
While there wasn’t a lot competition for the award, there were several other players that had had very good seasons. Catchers Rafael Lopez and Charles Cutler each performed well. Lopez split time between Tennessee and Iowa and was a combined .290/.393/.386/.779 with five home runs and 51 RBI, while Cutler batted .310/.415/.412./.827 with five homers and 42 RBI for the Smokies. Outfielder Bijan Rademacher earned a trip to the Arizona Fall League after hitting .281/.363/.448/.811 with 10 home runs and 56 RBI for the Daytona Cubs. In only 72 games, 2014 first round pick Kyle Schwarber hit a combined .344/.428/.634/1.061with 18 home runs and 53 RBI for Boise, Kane County and Daytona. Outfielder Jacob Hannemann led the entire system with 37 stolen bases.
Monday: The CCO’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year