#1—Kris Bryant

NorthSiders Report continues its Top 50 Prospect Countdown with the Cubs top prospect, third baseman Kris Bryant. Expected to make his MLB this month, Bryant led the minors in several offensive categories, including 43 homers.

Name: Kris Bryant, 3B
Age: 23 (1/4/1992)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 215 pounds
How acquired: Drafted in 1st round 2013, # 2 overall, out of San Diego University. Scouted by Alex Lantoya.

2014 Teams
Tennessee Smokies, Southern League, AA, (68 G, .355/.458/.702, 22 HR, 58 RBI);
Iowa Cubs, Pacific Coast League, AAA, (70 G, .295/.418/.619, 21 HR, 52 RBI)

Prior to Cubs
A prep standout at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, Bryant was a three-time all-state player and earned All-American honors his senior year after hitting .489 with 22 homers and 51 RBI. He was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 18th round in 2010 but elected to continue his baseball career at the University of San Diego, turning down offers from all the top colleges. Bryant made a name for himself his freshman year as he earned Co-Freshman and Co-MVP of the WCC after hitting .365/.482/.599 with 9 HR, 36 RBI, and 57 runs. He earned first-team All-American honors as a sophomore as well as WCC honors leading the team with 14 homers while hitting .366/.483/.671 with 57 RBI, and 59 runs. Bryant capped off his San Diego career with a record setting performance, leading the nation with 31 homers. He also topped the NCAA in runs (80), walks (66), slugging (.820), and set a San Diego record with 54 career homers. He racked up the post-season awards—earning the 2013 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award as college’s top player. He was named Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year, Baseball America Player of the Year, a first-team All-American, the co-WCC Player of the Year. And presented with the Dick Howser Trophy. While some experts thought the Cubs would take a pitcher with the second pick, the North Siders grabbed the best bat in the draft and signed the second overall pick to a record $6.7 million deal.

Cubs Career
After signing, meeting the media, and taking batting practice at Wrigley Field, Bryant made his way to Arizona and debuted for Mesa on July 21, committing three errors in a 0-3 performance. After getting his first pro hit, a double, the next day, Bryant was promoted to Boise, and in his first game in the Northwest League went 0-5 with five strikeouts. Before Cubs fans had a chance to panic, Bryant would dominate the rest of his time in the NWL, hitting .354/.416/.692 with 16 RBI and four homers, including his first pro blast on July 26. He was named NWL Player of the Week right before a promotion to Daytona. He racked up his second consecutive player of the week award as the FSL tabbed the third baseman his first week in town. Bryant helped lead the D-Cubs to the FSL title and finished the year with five homers, 14 RBI and a slash line of 333/.387/.719. He earned Cubs’ minor league player of the month honors for August and set his sights on the Arizona Fall League. Bryant finished his first pro season with a MVP performance in the AFL, leading the league in homers (6), total bases (56), runs (22), SLG (.772), and OPS (1.184). He hit .364 and was named AFL player of the week to open the season.

2014 Season
What can you say, he had a really good season. The 22-year-old led the minors in homers with 43, was named the Minor League Player of the Year by nearly every publication, and capped off the season with a trip to Wrigley to pick up his Cubs Minor League Player of the Year award. Bryant started out hot and really never cooled off, smacking a homer off Mat Latos in his first-ever AA at-bat at Pensacola (Reds) in the season opener. Before he left AA he hit .355/.458/.702 with 22 HR in 68 games, was named to the Southern League All-Star team, won the home run derby, and earned player of the week honors three times. To no one’s surprise he homered in his first game when promoted to AAA June 19 against El Paso, and his first five PCL hits were all long balls. In 70 games at Iowa, the right-handed power hitter batted .295/418/.619 with 21 homers and 52 RBI. Between the two levels, he logged 1,115 innings at third base, committing 21 errors (only seven at Iowa) in 372 chances for a .944 fielding percentage.

2015 Outlook
Bryant’s summer of 2015 will be spent surrounded by brick and ivy. Only expected to play in Iowa long enough for the Cubs can gain a seventh year of control, Bryant should be in Wrigley by the end of the month and where he will play, has yet to determined. While his entire minor league career has been spent at third, he did work on his outfield skills in spring training and saw action in two games. At Iowa, he’s likely to see time at both spots and he did play some outfield in college, so the position is nothing new to him. Bryant has a solid approach at the plate and despite his 6-foot-5 frame, uses a quick, direct swing with a long follow-through that generates loft and power. He’s an average runner on the bases with good instincts and has one of the stronger arms in the Cubs system for position players. While many have questioned his ability to stick at third, his performance on the field proves otherwise as he seems to be able to handle the position, and while he may never be a gold glove third baseman, has enough skills and work ethic to be an adequate defender. His best tool is his bat, and it dangerous, with the ability to hit the ball out of the park to all fields while displaying some of the best opposite field power in baseball. While the expectations for Bryant run rampant, the San Diego native keeps telling reporters his are even higher than the fans and pundits.

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