Bryant's Success Critical To Cubs Future

Bryant's Success Critical To Cubs Future
Kris Bryant

Circle Thursday’s selection of Kris Bryant on your Cubbie calendars.

By choosing the power hitting third baseman from the University of San Diego with the second overall selection in baseball’s amateur draft, a new name has emerged on the list of prospects on which Cubs fans are placing their hopes and dreams.

This pick means more than any of the others.  This is the second pick in the draft.  The Cubs likely—and hopefully—won’t have another chance to draft a player this high in the future.

Kris Bryant has to be a success—not just for Cubs fans—but for this regime, highlighted by Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, to show they truly are the scouting and development power they were brought to Chicago to be.

“I think it’s not hyperbole to say [Thursday] is the biggest day of this new regime’s tenure,” said Len Kasper, the Cubs television broadcaster on WGN Radio’s “Cubs Weekly” program a few weeks ago.  “The number 2 pick is one that you can’t miss on.”

Kris Bryant can’t be Josh Vitters.  He can’t be Ryan Harvey and he can’t be Luis Montanez either.  Or Chadd Blasko, Mark Pawelek or Bobby Brownlie.  Not if the Cubs plan to compete a few seasons from now, when many fans eagerly anticipate them turning the corner.

The 21-year-old Bryant led the nation with 31 home runs this past year, won the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year award, and set a University of San Diego record by blasting 54 round trippers in three college seasons.  Despite the widespread belief that the Cubs would wind up with either Stanford ace Mark Appel or Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray, the Cubs opted to go for collegiate baseball’s biggest bat—after Appel went to Houston—and with Gray still available.

“Ultimately, as we came down to the last couple of weeks, and really kept talking about the player that we felt would be the best fit for us, it became apparent that Kris Bryant was going to be that guy,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development, on Cubs Weekly.  “He’s a big, strong, athletic position player that we feel has the ability to hit in the middle of our order for many years to come.”

McLeod knows the coaching staff at the University of San Diego well, and the organization thoroughly evaluated Bryant and the pitchers before settling on the San Diego slugger.  McLeod said scouts compare him to Troy Glaus, who played 13 year major league seasons at third base with the Angels, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Braves, swatting 320 lifetime home runs.

If Bryant puts up comparable power numbers, he’d be a big win for the organization.  Given his draft position, and the fact he’s a college hitter—considered the safest commodity to draft—it should be expected he’ll be on an accelerated path to the big leagues and will make a positive impact once he arrives at Wrigley Field.

Winning teams must—and most often do—make the most of their top draft selections.  Will some miss?  Sure.  But if you need proof that the proverbial swing-and-a-miss on top draft picks will keep your franchise from building and sustaining success, take a look at who the Cubs have chosen in the first round over the last twenty years.

Look at the Cubs division, by comparison.  Two of the Cardinals recent first round draft picks, Shelby Miller (19th overall, 2009) and Lance Lynn (39th overall, 2008), are high impact members of St. Louis’s rotation.

How about the Reds?  Between 2007 and 2010, all but one player they drafted in the first or supplemental rounds is on a major league roster.  2007’s 34th overall pick is now Cincinnati’s everyday third baseman, Todd Frazier.  Drafted 19 selections earlier was their everyday catcher, Devin Mesoraco.  Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal—all first round selections—were sent along with Edinson Volquez in the trade that brought them Mat Latos, one of the National League’s best starting pitchers.

And Cincinnati has reached the playoffs in two of the last three seasons.  The Cardinals, of course, won the World Series two years ago.

If Bryant, last year’s 6th overall pick Albert Almora, and the other top picks the Cubs have drafted and will select over the next few years make it, that “foundation for sustained success” line we’re already tired of hearing will ring truer than ever.  The Cubs will be set up for years of consistent competitive play—at the very least—and may one day compete for that elusive World Series.

But if not, the organization will not be in much better shape than where it was left when the Theo trio arrived.

All Cubs fans can do right now is entrust the men running the organization to find the players with the talent and the makeup to succeed for a franchise starving for a championship.   Early returns on Almora suggest he may have both.  Bryant, too.

“I obviously think that I can play in the big leagues now,” Bryant said on a conference call the night of his selection.  “I have that type of confidence in myself.  But like I said, that’s not my decision.  I’ll leave that up to the guys in charge.”

Hopefully, for the sake of Cubs fans—and the organization—those guys in charge are forced to bring Kris Bryant to Wrigley very soon.  There’s a lot on his selection.

If Bryant ends up one of the key pieces of the Cubs eventual run to a championship as built by the new regime, this past Thursday will be a day to remember for the right reason.

If not, it’ll be one of the dates to explain why the Cubs are back at square one.

Comments

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  • BTW his DOB is 1/4/1992. He is 21 years old not 20.

  • Hey! Let's sign the guy to a contract first!

    No one player is the key to the Cubs' long-term success. Bryant may make it, he may not. If he does, then great! If he doesn't, then he wouldn't be the first one who didn't, on the Cubs or on any other major league team. I've been a Cub fan for 55 years, since I was a little boy. I remember when Leo Durocher, a self-proclaimed expert if there ever was one, thought John Bocabella was going to be the second coming. John who? I don't think he lasted much more than a year in the big show. Geesh! I wish the media would let up with this kind of nonsense. The kid is confident, but, golly, let him play ball in the minors for a year or two.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I don't think that specifically Bryant is key, nor Appel or Grey had we drafted them. I think the point is that this #2 pick, the ability to evaluate talent and get it right, that is why Bryant is key. Not specifically his skills, his position etc...but the ability to evaluate that kind of talent.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Tinker, you are correct.

  • Of course it's hyperbole. There are no sure things in baseball including the thought that Bryant flaming out dooms the Cubs or their front office. There are always other ways to be successful than through this one kid. That being said there is no reason to think that Bryant will fail either. I expect him to succeed. To what level? Guess we will just have to way to find out.

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    Tinkers I am in total agreement. Lets let Bryant get his feet wet before we start seeing him as the savior of our franchise. But this is Chicago and everyone thinks that every prospect is destined for the Hall of Fame.

    Speaking of which where is Bobby Hill now? I remember when he was traded and everyone thought we traded Lou Brock again.

  • In reply to Rich Hood:

    Our dealings with the Pirates that year we traded Hill was some of the best trading I've ever seen from the Cubs.

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    In reply to Bilbo161:

    I kind of like the win/win trade we did for Clement and Lee but I agree Hendry was spot on with the Pirates that time.

  • In reply to Rich Hood:

    Bobby Hill was a total head case and I think the Cubs figured that out pretty quickly. Kudos to them for spotting that and not being afraid to part with him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, did you or Tom see where Ian Stewart was whining on twitter last night about how he'll never get re-called to the big league team because "dale doesn't like me"? Who does that??

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Just saw that. Hard to believe that that doesn't damage his chances... if they could even fall further than they have. He doesn't seem to appreciate what's been given to him.

  • I think this is true. This was a big pick for the Cubs and it was either going to be the only real safe pitcher in the draft: Mark Appel or it was going to be the top college bat.

    Now that it's Bryant, he's a big key to the Cubs success. He's the kind of guy they really need to add to the lineup in that he adds some patience with his power. The combination of tools (especially power), college experience and what is reported to be outstanding mental makeup --- and the Cubs FO has known him well since high school, so I'm sure they have that part nailed down -- gives him a great shot at being a big league player. The only thing that's a question in my mind is at what level of impact.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Just out of curiosity John, how would you rank Bryant against the big 3 in proximity to the majors?

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    It's very close, probably right in the middle. I'd say he's not to far from joining either Class A team once he signs so he's on their same level. He is as advanced or more than Almora. I'd put him somewhere below Soler at the moment, but that may not be for too long. It will depend on how quickly he adjusts.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    It's very close, probably right in the middle. I'd say he's not to far from joining either Class A team once he signs so he's on their same level. He is as advanced or more than Almora. I'd put him somewhere below Soler at the moment, but that may not be for too long. It will depend on how quickly he adjusts.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks!

  • Glad to hear JMac knows coaching staff at SD that bodes well for having a little more insight.

  • Reading this reminds me how jealous I am of STL and CIN. This is going to be some division. Also think Glaus comparison we will hear a lot.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    PIT is right there with them too. They've drafted some impact players in recent years past.

  • The thing that no one is talking about is Kris Bryant's Dad is a former Minor leaguer. Bryant has been training for this pretty much his whole life. There is no question about his work ethic or makeup. He changed his stance and swing going into his draft year. That shows serious coach ability. I just don't see him failing.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    This is actually a huge impact that people who are not at the ballpark day in and day out overlook. They tend to think you're just speaking to genetics. But it's really more of a "Baseball Rat" psychology. They're always at the park, working on something. They get lots of extra buckets of BP balls, etc... more advanced coaching, etc. than what little Timmy gets from his little league coach. This is also somewhat evidenced by Almora's father who (although he wasn't a player) had the BP cage, etc installed in their back yard.

  • Agree that the draft each year is really a big crapshoot, but the numbers will eventually be on the Cubs' side.

    Think back to the "Golden Era" of baseball when the teams had no internet or organized data base to compare players. They just had to go from town to town and literally stumble across some fine talent hidden in the backwoods of America, or be lucky enough to hear of some "phenom" tearing it up at the college or high school level.

    Seems like the Yankees and the Cardinals were the best at it for many decades.

  • The Cubs have collected some 'can't miss' players in Almora, Soler, Baez, and now Bryant. Add in Castro, Castiillo, and Rizzo and there is only one open spot. Does not that spot need to go to left side hitter for balance? I am assuming the above right side hitters will be in the MLB, because they are all so gifted.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Switch-hitting Alcantara fits in nicely at 2B if you go with Baez in the OF.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe no.3 pick if Baez is on 2nd.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I also really like that Hanneman guy. But John's point of Alcantara being available is a good one too.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Nobody is "can't-miss". Not Baez, Almora, etc.; or David Clyde, Hurricane Hazel, Danny Murphy, Tom Tresh, Chris Pittaro, or (gulp) Corey Patterson. Even "Instant HOFers" Trout, Strasburg, and Harper have a bit of tarnish this year.
    Every team has phenoms; some make it, some don't. Injuries, outside issues, inability to adjust, inability to take coaching....all can keep a guy from ML stardom.

    That said, the numbers are on our side. We are building a larger and larger list of top guys, so the odds are greater that enough will pan out to make us contend and win big. Let's not get ahead of the learning curve though.

  • Very nice job with your article Jordan. Good job of stating the importance of the pick & what it means to the organization. And, in relating it to what the other teams in our division have done. Seems as though some reading the article interpreted it differently than I did. Others seem to indicate you wrote that the future of the organization is totally dependent on Bryant - that was not my interpretation. Nonetheless, I think we all can agree that the decision to draft Bryant although not a be-all and end-all decision carries tremendous impact on the future success of the organization & the legacy of Theo, Jed, & Jason.

  • Eeeeerrrrrrrggggghhhhhh......

    I get so leary. I don't mean to undermine Kris Bryant's importance to the Cubs. As 1st round draft pick he really needs to produce. And I think Epstoyer drafted the person they were most confident would hit.

    But I shudder at over emphasizing his importance. Because in no way should Kris Bryant, or Javier Baez, or Jorge Soler, be put in that migrane inducing "savior" role. It's every bit as important that someone like Kyle Hendricks come out of nowhere and put himself into the starting pitching category. It's every bit as important that when Bryant is ready, a Christian Villanueva, a Junior Lake, or....Jeimer Candalerio be there to at least compete.....

    I go back to that Rany on the Royals piece, where two years ago KC had the best farm system in the history of baseball- 9 out of the top 100 prospects in the game..... and where it's gotten them. Then he runs off the Cardinals team.

    Jon Jay- 2nd round pick

    David Freese- 9th round pick acquired for Jim Edmonds.

    Yadier Molina, 4th round pick

    Lance Lynn- Supplemental 1st rounder,

    Jamie Garcia, 22nd round pick

    That's a farm system. I don't want to undermine Bryant. He's incredibly important. But he's a brick. One of many......

  • In reply to felzz:

    Stop that!

  • In reply to felzz:

    Bulls eye!!!

    The last I checked there are 9 positions on the field and 25 on the roster. Bryant comes in with a good shot at it, and I hope that he makes it and fills one of those positions. However, he is no more critical than the players trying to fill the other eight. On the morning of draft day, I changed my mind about Appel/Gray and said that the Cubs should stick with their philosophy of drafting the best "position" player. Now hopefully he works out, but if he doesn't, it's not a train wreck. Bocabella's falling short in the 60s didn't ruin the team, but the media sure did put a lot of pressure on him that didn't help him or the team. He ended up not being much of the puzzle at all and the team went on to glory (of a sort).

  • In reply to felzz:

    Felzz, this is scary to say publicly, but you are the Voice Of Reason on this !

  • In reply to felzz:

    Exactly.

  • In reply to felzz:

    I feel like Castro and Rizzo are being put in that savior position now and I don't like the results. It doesn't help that they truly don't have anyone in the line-up to protect them either.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Well said Adam!

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    In reply to felzz:

    I don't doubt that "he's one brick of many." But you talk of the Cardinals as if they have all the luck with their draft choices. One thing the Cardinals do is DEVELOP their players. And one thing folks that are usually negative on the Cubs leave out is the amount of top notch folks Theo has put into place for player development.

    This is the key!! Now you add that this front office has had 2 solid drafts. You can really get a sense that the Cubs are going places. It's easy to be negative on the Cubs. But it's been almost never since the last time we had ownership and a GM on the same page with a plan to get us competitive.

    And that's all we can really ask for when talking about a winning ball club. The picking part is easy. Now the real work starts!

  • In reply to felzz:

    As I read the article, felzz, I didn't get that Jordan was calling Bryant or any one player the Cubs "savior". I got that he was emphasizing the importance on getting impact players with your first round draft picks, especially if they're the 2nd overall.

    The point of the article was those that don't miss on their top picks have sustained success, not the Cubs won't have sustained success if Kris Bryant doesn't do well. You're absolutely right, Bryant is one of many. If Almora, Baez and whomever the Cubs pick next year succeed at being impact players, then it won't matter as much if Bryant falters. But if the Cubs miss on more/most of their top draft picks, it won't matter if Bryant is a HOFer, the Cubs will still find it very difficult to win a World Series.

  • "All Cubs fans can do right now is entrust the men running the organization to find the players with the talent and the makeup to succeed for a franchise starving for a championship."

    Not quite. Finding them is the first step. Coaching 'em up in the right way and at the right pace is the next.
    I have as much high faith in the revamped coaching staff -- in all levels -- as I have in the FO making the best available choices.

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    Of course this pick is important, but the idea that a miss here puts the organization back to square one is definitely an exaggeration! This regime has done a lot more to improve the farm situation than to draft Kris Bryant.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Agree!

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Agree

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Point well made.

  • In reply to John57:

    Yep. Other than that point, I agree Bryant is important to the organization in many ways. I'm with Kennyhubs, the FO team just needs to stay the course of building the farm and the rest will take care of itself. With or without any single player that may or may not reach his potential. Go Bryant!

  • Apropo of nothing, if Ian Stewart really wants out of the Cubs organization, he should be the one to quit so the Cubs aren't obligated to pay his salary. He wants a shot with another club and to continue to collect a paycheck from the Cubs. No dice, bucko.

  • Hey,
    How have Theo's FO's previous drafts panned out? In comparing CIncy and St. Louis, this may be relevant, yes?

  • This is nuts. The guy is 21 years old and you want to place the weight of the entire organization on his shoulders.

    He is one of many. The franchise does not rest on his performance.

    Regarding....

    " that “foundation for sustained success” line we’re already tired of hearing"

    Theo has not been here even two years yet. Your already tired of hearing about the importance of a foundation for sustained success?!?!?

    I guess that explains this:

    "Hopefully, for the sake of Cubs fans—and the organization—those guys in charge are forced to bring Kris Bryant to Wrigley very soon. There’s a lot on his selection."

    NO!!!! Let's have the organization move Kris up when his development calls for it! If that puts him in the majors next year, great! If it means 2015 or 2016, that's OK!

    Bring him up too early, watch him struggle, and watch the fans get upset with him and Theo both! Now that's a way to waste a high draft pick!!

    Does Bryant increase the odds of the Cubs fielding a competitive team? Yes, but it is a numbers game. All that matters is that enough winning major league players come out of the minors. It matters not which ones it ends up being.

    Patience.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    Amen.

  • Remember one thing, gentlemen. How many first-round picks made by the Cubs currently reside on the north side? None. Most of our 1st round picks in the last 10-15 years have been disasters or hurt. Almora and Bryant at least seem capable of there lofty status.

  • Looks like it might be a race to third base between Baez and Bryant now with the loser likely ending up in left. I love all the high end bats that are being accumulated! I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that everyone stays healthy and keeps taking steps forward this year. When the top prospects lists come out to begin the year next year, the Cubs could conceivably have four guys in the top 25 (more likely top 50)!! Throw in Alcantara who will likely crack a few lists and Vogelbach on the fringe and maybe a pitcher or two...Oops. I'm also looking forward to Hannemann getting signed and playing. I can see the appeal/potential there in the few videos I've seen. Reminds me of Ellsbury. He may be a giant sleeper in the Cubs organizational OF plans.

  • For a point of reference, after the Bears just traded Carimi, there are NO 1st round picks on the team from the Jerry Angelo era. That is bad, but they are still somewhat competitive. Will the Cubs be better if Bryant becomes a star. Sure. It won't kill them if he doesn't. That being said, it's cool that we have 4 very high draft choices (Soler would have been, so I'll count him) that actually deserve to ranked in the top 50 of all major league prospects.

  • In reply to djriz:

    What about Forte?

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    2nd round, pick 44

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    I thought the "Cubs Way" means Bryant needs at least 500 Minor League ABs before consideration for the major league team. As much as Kris Bryant believes he is ready for the show right now, I'd have to think that the Cubs are going to stick to policy with him unless he is above average at every level up the ladder.

    Judging by this article, I'd say the pressure is now off Soler and Almora. Also, the Cubs could easily pick as high as 2nd next season should they start selling off their best short term assets for long term assets. It's not a reach. I don't think Miami wins more than 45 games, but the 2nd pick is only one traded pitcher (Feldman, Garza) along with a decent hitting OF (Soriano) from becoming much closer to reality.

  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    Their is no way they pick 2nd. You forgot the Astros.

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    In reply to Mitchener:

    4.5 game difference right now? It is absolutely possible.

  • If Christin Villanueva keeps hitting like he has of late and with Candelario/Baez maybe Bryant will not even be the best third base option. Looks like a position of strength.

  • Last year's #3 overall, Zunino, was just called up by Seattle, and he was struggling to find his bat in AAA. We'll see if he finds in in MLB.

    These things take time. There's no sense in rushing a player if you don't need to, and the Cubs don't need to. They are not going to be a contender in 2014 and a good chance not in 2015.

    They have not even signed him to a contract yet, and his agent is Scott Boras. They need to win that battle before they take measurements for World Series rings. Who knows, is there any chance that blows up in their faces?

  • In the latest edition of Ask BA Jim Callis ranked Bryant as the Cubs top prospect. Wow.

  • I think a good player comparison for Bryant is Richie Sexton... if he has his career the Cubs will be ecstatic.

    How about Miguel Tejada or Ernie Banks as a comparison to Javier Baez?

  • Baez has more raw power than Tejada from what I've seen. Probably Ernie too. The only question in my mind (big question) is contact skills.

  • Lots of great thoughts here, but I'm of the mind that the kid will tell us when he's ready through various factors. How does he handle a slump? Does he take that slump to the field? Does he become HR conscious? How does he adjust to advanced pitching? How is his situational hitting? Too many things there to be sure of before he gets to the big club. That's why, if I had my way, I'm starting him at KC and bringing him through the system at his own pace.

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