Why Is Theo Epstein So Adamant That Kris Bryant Won't Play In Majors This Year?

Why Is Theo Epstein So Adamant That Kris Bryant Won't Play In Majors This Year?
MAJOR-LEAGUE READY: Everything he's done in the minor leagues this season says that top prospect Kris Bryant is ready for the major leagues, but that'll likely have to wait until mid-May of next season.

With the buzz surrounding Javier Baez’s first week in the major leagues, the trade for right-hander Jacob Turner and other Cubs issues over the weekend, this nugget of information was lost in the shuffle and I’ve been meaning to write about it for a few days now.

When addressing reporters last Friday at Wrigley Field, Cubs president Theo Epstein made it clear that he has no plans of calling up top prospect Kris Bryant this season -- even after the major-league rosters expand in September.

“Nothing’s changed,” Epstein said. “I still don’t foresee a scenario where Kris will get called up this year. It’s his first full professional season. It would really take extraordinary circumstances to call up anyone in his first professional season.”

I know Epstein made similar statements earlier this season, but what caught my attention was his main reason for not promoting Bryant -- because the 22-year-old is in his first full professional season after being drafted by the Cubs in 2013.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard that as a reason for not bringing up a player in all the years I’ve been covering baseball. I’ve always operated under the assumption that the best time to promote a prized prospect to the majors was when he was ready.

The White Sox brought up Chris Sale the same year they drafted him in 2010. That’s worked out fine, and the South Siders may do the same thing with Carlos Rodon this year.

From purely a baseball standpoint, there’s little question Bryant is ready. He’s split the season between Double-A and Triple-A and the last I saw he had a combined 38 home runs and a .341 batting average. Although his professional resume is light -- he also played a part of last season after signing -- he was a seasoned college player before he was drafted. You certainly can make the argument that Bryant is more major-league ready than Baez at this point.

Bryant’s promotion would add some jazz to what promises to be an otherwise worthless September at Wrigley, but it apparently won’t happen.

“I think Kris has done extraordinary things, but I think for us to consider calling someone up in their first professional season, not only would the player have to be doing extraordinary things but there would have to be unique circumstances with the big league team, too, where we were in a pennant race and really needed that boost,” Epstein said.

“I think in your first professional season, there’s enough you have to deal without making your big-league debut. That’s the proper thing for his development.”

I’m not naive to the business aspect of baseball and realize the unspoken reason for not bringing up Bryant now is to delay the point when he becomes arbitration eligible -- that also would mean he’ll begin next season in the minors -- but that's an awful reason as well for a big-market team like the Cubs. They shouldn't be focused on saving a few bucks down the road. If Bryant does well and is awarded a fat salary, that would be good news for the organization.

To me, the matter is fairly simple:

Bryant is major-league ready, so let’s see what he can do with the big club. I don’t care that he’s in his first full professional season or not. I think he can handle it.

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The following video is of Bryant homering in his first spring training at-bat:

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    John Jackson

    I've been covering professional and major college sports for the better part of 25 years. I started at the Bergen Record in New Jersey in the late 1980s, made a brief 18-month stop at the Detroit News in the early 1990s and spent 17 years at the Chicago Sun-Times where I was the Bulls' beat writer for the second three-peat. I've been freelancing the last couple of years, working mostly for the Associated Press and MLB.com. Insight, commentary and entertaining writing are my strong suits and that's what this blog is all about.

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