Legend of Kris Bryant grows: One NL executive sees 50-homer power
The Cubs' prospect is wowing them in camp this spring.
MESA, Ariz. -- The first name that comes to mind when you see Kris Bryant might be Dave Kingman, another tall, lanky, righthanded-hitting Cub with immense power.
Two big differences though: Bryant will be a much better hitter, and he's a friendly guy.
Bryant, already the hot new slugger in baseball, hit another drive Friday that didn't look like it would carry over the fence -- until it did, that is. That's two homers this spring for Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's June draft who is looking like a major bargain at $6.7 million.
"He's a monster with ridiculous power," one AL scout said.
"All-Star third baseman ... soon," one NL executive said.
"Huge power, Good athlete," another NL executive said.
"Fifty homer power," yet another NL executive (like the others not with the Cubs) said.
Like a lot of Bryant's homers, his shot Friday off Indians righthander Carlos Carrasco looked at first like a long flyball, until Indians right fielder Ryan Raburn backed up to the wall, then watched the ball scrape the back side of the wall for a two-run homer. Bryant looks just a tiny bit out of place as a 6-foot-5 third baseman. But in the batters box he's a natural.
"I've just been blessed with power," said Bryant, who has a baby face with dimples and blue eyes, belying the "monster" tag. "I started hitting home runs at 8, it really honed in at 12, and it kept going."
Some would say the same about his drives. They just keep going.
One Cubs person remarked that his shots frequently land about 30 feet past where you think they will. He isn't a BP power guy, either, but an in-game power guy, which is a much better thing. He hit five home runs in 57 at-bats with a .719 slugging percentage at three A-ball stops last year, and is expected to get another full year in the minors before ascending.
Bryant, one of a triumvirate of three great Cubs prospects doing well in camp along with shortstop Javier Baez and center fielder Albert Almora, has been beating expectations at every stop along the way, though. So you never know. His final year at the University of San Diego was absurdly good, leading him to eclipse most major college teams at a time when power has been de-emphasized in the college game. He also beat his own homer goal -- by one.
Bryant posts a list of preseason goals on his bathroom mirror, and he refreshes himself while brushing his teeth every morning. "It's something to strive for that I see every day," said Bryant, who declined to reveal this year's goals.
Last year, he put on the list that he'd like to hit 30 home runs, which is a ridiculous number for college. But when he did it one better, the Cubs made him the second overall pick, after Stanford righthander Mark Appel.
"Many thought he was the best player in that draft," yet another NL exec said. While he slipped past Houston, he did get the highest bonus, getting slot money for the No. 2 pick (the exact slot allotted was $6,708,400). The Rockies, picking at No. 3, were ready to pounce if he slipped past Chicago.
Appel was a hometown choice for Houston, and a safe pick, at that. But if that draft were to be done over, Bryant would likely be the No. 1 guy. The N.L. GM was serious when he speculated about the 50-homer potential.
One scout likened him to Troy Glaus. Another scout called him "Dale Murpshyesque." Yet another suggested the best comp is Ryan Braun "with less speed and less steroids."
It's really amazing how Bryant's career has progressed, from his days hitting 19 home runs in the Peccole Little League, just off the Las Vegas strip. Vegas is known for other things, but it is a baseball power hotbed, with Bryce Harper and Rangers prospect Joey Gallo among the recent power prospects produced. And Bryant is happy to remind you that there's more to Vegas than gambling, nightclubs and showgirls. "There's a (real) town, there's (real) people," he said.
He said it with a smile. Of course, Bryant says everything with a smile. "I'm a pretty positive guy,'' he said.
And why wouldn't he be? He's had a good life thus far, except for a little bit of under-rating by the scouts (and we don't only mean slipping to No. 2 in the draft). Out of high school, he fell all the way to the 18th round, where the Blue Jays gave it a shot.
USD is a very good program, but it hadn't been considered among the best when Bryant chose to go there over Vanderbilt and others, a decision he called "the best of my life." From there, his career kept going. Bryant was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League, and now the expectations -- even beyond the mirror -- are as outsized as his long limbs.
Now folks are wondering whether he's too lanky to be third base. He said he did some research and found that Scott Rolen and Chipper Jones were both good third baseman at 6-foot-4 (Rolen was all-time great third baseman), only an inch shorter than he is. He knows there aren't a lot of tall third baseman, though. "I'm hoping I can break that trend," he told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
Whether he is ultimately a third baseman or right fielder (his big arm works in either spot) is yet "to be determined," one N.L. executive said. In the meantime, Bryant says he's working at it, and feeling a little bit better every day. Again, there are doubters.
"It's not impossible," Bryant said. "I believe in myself and I'm working every day."
It's not often you find a player who's at the top of the chart for both power and attitude, and the Cubs did, with just a little bit of luck.