Theo Epstein spoke in the middle of last week and answered many questions. The comments that got perhaps the most attention was addressing the parallel fronts statement from two years ago. Attention also was given to the comments given about the Jeff Samardzija situation. One comment that did not receive a lot of attention was the plan with regards to Kris Bryant. Perhaps this is because the comments weren't particularly new in comparing Bryant's likely path similar to Evan Longoria, but it does lay a framework to analyze how the Cubs view Kris Bryant's development.
Evan Longoria shared many similarities upon being drafted to Kris Bryant. Both were the best college bats in their respective drafts. Both dominated in their first season as a professional, and both began their second professional season at AA. Longoria spent most of his second professional season in AA and was eventually moved up to AAA for the final 31 games of the season. Both teams he played on ended up in the postseason so the move up was entirely for developmental reasons. Longoria, of course, played 7 games in AAA the following season but was called up due to injury. Longoria signed an extension within a week of his call up, and the Rays and Longoria have been happy ever since.
So how accurately does Bryant fit the career path of Longoria so far? Longoria signed quicker than Bryant did (nothing to grouse about, read this if you think otherwise), and as result he managed to play 62 games in his first professional season. Longoria managed to play 36 game in two levels of A ball, and another 26 in AA. Bryant on the other hand only managed to play 36 games in a few different levels of A ball. Bryant on the other hand went to the Arizona Fall League and managed to play another 20 games to close the gap. Seems relatively similar path up to this point.
Now I hate scouting stats, particularly at the lower level of the minors. But I think looking at walk and strikeout rates can provide some value here. Bryant struck out 24.3% while walking 10.5% of the time. Compare that to Longoria's first professional season saw him strike out at a 15.9% rate with a 6.8% rate. Longoria was clearly better in terms of plate discipline statistics, but it is a pretty small sample size that is being compared. Still it suggests that Bryant has things that could be worked on in the minor leagues at this time, and that a year in the minor leagues would not be the worst thing in the world for his development.
Longoria is not a particularly good comparison in terms of the type of player that Bryant will likely be. Longoria was a better pure hitter in college than Bryant who was more known for his power. Longoria was also clearly a superior fielder with no questions about his ability to stick in the infield. Another comparison that might be more apt is Troy Glaus. Glaus was a big third baseman standing at 6'5" like Kris Bryant. And the combination of power and patience as a hitter makes this an intriguing comparison. Glaus didn't play until the year after he signed, but he managed to play 109 games between AA-AAA before being called up in 1998. Glaus during that time managed a 20.3% strikeout rate and 12.7% walk rate.
That is the situation that we hope Kris Bryant finds himself in this coming season. Theo Epstein made it very clear that each player has development goals and that once achieved the player will be promoted. If Kris Bryant puts on a dominate performance in AA and AAA next year he could make it to Chicago by the end of the year. But it also wouldn't be surprising if the Cubs took their time and allowed Bryant a full year in the minors before coming up in 2015. Either way, the front office's track record in Boston should earn them a little trust in making the right call on when to call up Bryant.