The Kris Bryant Love Affair Begins

Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant against the West during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Minor Leaguer of the Year is the top prospect of the Chicago Cubs organization who eventually became the highest ranked prospect in the land.  Kris Bryant has all of the talent in the world to become a superstar on the diamond.  After a full season of embarrassing AA and AAA pitchers, Kris Bryant is clearly ready to make the leap to the Show.

While Bryant is Major League ready, the Cubs may choose to not bring him up until later in the season to have team control over him for one more year.  This means that the Cubs may attempt to hold him in AAA until the Super 2 Date has passed in order to have him on one more year of a club-controlled salary rather than give Bryant the opportunity to go to salary arbitration.   Of course, the Cubs organization may have to choose between potential monetary savings and on-field production.

Theo Epstein has already declared that the Cubs will be acquiring free agent talent this offseason and they fully intend to compete for the division title next season.  They are already linked to Jon Lester and Russell Martin, and it is very possible that they could purchase even more free agents with their minimal dollars tied into contracts and a war chest of revenue to spend on players.  My guess is that we see Kris Bryant sooner rather than later.

Of course, it is very important to consider that not all elite prospects are successful at the next level.  Even hitters that are within the top 20 prospects only have roughly 60% success rate while pitchers are more like 40%.  That being said, Kris Bryant is one of the safest prospects in a couple years and it would be a tad surprising if he was not able to hack it in the Show.

Of course, even Mike Trout struggled in his Major League debut where he played 40 forgettable games in 2011.  Trout hit to the tune of a lowly .220 batting average and five home runs.  By next season, Mike Trout was carving up the Majors, but we need to remember that Mike Trout is not the norm, but rather a historical outlier.  The point is that even truly great ballplayers could have an adjustment period.

Even with the very real chance that Kris Bryant does not start the season at Wrigley Field or that he may struggle at first, I still fully advocate drafting him in any league or format.  (I would assume that Kris Bryant is the crown jewel of a happy owner in a keeper league and off the market).  The risk is simply worth it.  Here is how FanGraphs graded Kris Bryant according to the 20-80 scale:

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An 80 on the scouting scale is reserved for only arguably the best player in the league, a 70 is truly elite, a 60 is above average, a 50 is average, a 40 is below average, a 30 is not MLB quality, and a 20 as a scouting grade is simply terrible.  The number on the left ranks his current ability and the number on the right refers to future value on the 20-80 scale.  According to FanGraphs, Kris Bryant does not just have a chance to be a standout ballplayer; he has a chance to be a generational talent.

If the 20-80 scouting tool is not to your liking, then I am sure you can trust Bryant’s 2014 numbers in AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa.  In AA, Bryant dominated in 68 games where he scored 61 runs, mashed 22 homers, drove in 58 RBI’s, and stole eight bases.  His numbers were so absurd that they almost do not make sense.  His .355/.458/.702 is downright silly and Bryant’s wRC indicates that he is responsible for creating 75 runs in 68 games with the Tennessee Smokies.  I almost feel bad for the opposing pitchers.

Kris Bryant was promoted mid-season to AAA Iowa where it was more of the same.  This time, Bryant played in 70 games where he scored 57 runs, mashed 21 homers, drove in 52 RBI’s, and stole seven bases.  The slash line was a marginally less alien .295/.418/.619.  Overall, Kris Bryant played a 138-game season in 2014 where he sent 43 balls over the fence and became the talk of MiLB.

The 2013 second overall draft pick has accelerated through the Minors at a rapid pace with astounding success, but you could argue there is a minor cause for concern in one aspect of his game.  Bryant will strike out a decent amount.  He fanned in over a quarter of his 2014 at-bats, but it is really hard to call that a true cause for concern when Mike Trout whiffed 184 times this season.

Ultimately, you are a looking at a future superstar who could potentially challenge Giancarlo Stanton as the greatest power hitter in the game one day.  In a couple years from now, you could be asking yourself whether to draft Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, or Kris Bryant with your top five fantasy draft pick.  Of course, this is a best case scenario for Kris Bryant, but he is advanced beyond his years and has power comparable to Paul Bunyan.

While this article is certainly optimistic, this season may very well be the lowest price that Kris Bryant may go for in fantasy baseball leagues for over a decade.  My favorite Kris Bryant fact is that in his 2013 season at the University of San Diego, Bryant slugged 31 home runs to lead the country.  His 31 homers were greater than the number of HR that 223 out of 296 Division I teams hit that season.

Even though Bryant is yet to have a single MLB at-bat, his 2015 impact could be tremendous.  I generally attempt to draft safer veteran players with high floors, but I am willing to go all in on what looks to be a seemingly cannot miss potential stud.