On the surface, Dustin Pedroia and Kris Bryant wouldn't appear to have much in common. Pedroia is listed at 5'8", was drafted as a SS and plays 2B. Bryant is 6'5" and hopes to stick at 3B, but may move to the OF if another prospect like Javier Baez moves him off the position.
Pedroia was a 2nd round pick of the Red Sox in 2004 out of Arizona State and some questioned why such a small player would be chosen that high. There was little question, on the other hand, that Kris Bryant was a top 3 pick last year. He'd been high on scouts lists since high school, where he had the possibility of being a first round pick had he not made his intention of going to college so clear.
Bryant is already considered a top 30 prospect in baseball while Pedroia never reached higher than #77 on Baseball America's list.
They don't really have similar styles at the plate. They are different hitters to be sure. Pedroia was known for his excellent hand eye coordination and ability to make consistent contact, which sounds much more like Albert Almora and he was also known for swinging from his heels -- much like Javier Baez.
But when it comes to following Pedroia's quick ascent to the majors, Bryant seems like the best fit.
In the year he was drafted, Pedroia made it to high Class A ball in his first professional season. That offseason he went to the Arizona Fall League and impressed the Red Sox enough to have him start his first full season in AA.
Bryant is already drawing raves in the fall league for his all-around play. Concerns about his ability to stick at 3B are beginning to fade and it appears the only way he'll move is if the Cubs have a better option at 3B.
But Bryant is going to make his impact with his bat. Whereas there was some concern in Daytona for an aggressive approach, Bryant is putting up his usual good ABs so far in AZ. There's some thought that even Daytona wasn't challenging enough for Bryant last year and he was perhaps a bit too eager to take his swings. This fall he is re-focusing on that patient approach for which he was known at the University of San Diego.
He's hit 2 HRS already and is hitting an even .500 after 3 games. Some scouts believe he can already hold his own in the major leagues. While that may be true, the Cubs will hold off on that for now. He will likely not return to high A ball and instead head straight up to AA the way Pedroia did. Pedroia spent just 66 games at the AA before being promoted to AAA Pawtucket and finishing the year there.
Pedroia showed his first struggles at the AAA level that year, hitting .255 and slugging just .382, though his approach remained very good. The next year Pedroia returned to AAA and then finished the year in Boston and has been there ever since.
If Bryant were to continue to follow the same path, he'll finish the year at Iowa, though I have heard from some that he may just skip AAA altogether. The Cubs do like their hitters to have a full season at AAA, but there can be exceptions. Bryant may be one of them.
If not, then Bryant will go to AAA and if he adjusts quickly could still see the majors by the end of 2014, perhaps sooner. It seems that at the least, like Pedroia, he should be in the big leagues by the end of his 2nd full professional season, which for Bryant would be 2015. By then he could be joined by the likes of Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, and possible Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. That's not to mention current core pieces Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood.
While the focus of late has been on the managerial hire, the real success of the franchise will depend on some of those names and perhaps some we haven't talked about here. The manager will have to be the one who just makes sure they have the best environment to develop as long term impact players.
As for Bryant, it is yet to be seen whether he can win an MVP and become the heart of a perennial playoff team the way Pedroia has. And he'll be a different player, possibly more in the .275-.285 range with 30 or more HRs from 3B or a corner OF spot. You can read Kevin Gallo's scouting report here.
But despite all their differences on the surface, it does appear Bryant is at least following Pedroia's quick path to the majors.