The Cubs picked up another building-block piece in Kris Bryant, the University of San Diego third baseman they believe will one day fit right into a lineup with Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
The Cubs weren’t going to announce an ETA on Thursday night, minutes after taking Bryant with the draft’s No. 2 overall pick. But team executives believe it won’t take long for the polished prospect to get it.
Not after leading the nation in homers (31), runs scored (80), walks (66) and slugging percentage (.820) this season and posting a 3.34 GPA last year and making the West Coast Conference’s all-academic team.
“I obviously think that I can play in the big leagues now,” Bryant said. “I have that type of confidence in myself. (But) that’s not my decision. I’ll leave that up to the guys in charge.”
Bryant, who’s being advised by Scott Boras, more than once talked about “if” a deal gets done, using one of the super-agent’s talking points. The Cubs have been assigned a $6.7 million value for the No. 2 slot, the bulk of their overall $10.6 million bonus pool. It sounds like the 20-year-old doesn’t have anything left to prove on the college level.
Last season the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels received adrenaline shots from their All-Stars/Rookies of the Year. When asked if he could make a quick impact like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, Bryant didn’t hesitate to put himself in that category.
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“Deep down, I absolutely think that,” Bryant said. “I think every ballplayer should think that. You should think that you can go out there and play with the best of the best, because I’ve been doing that my whole life.”
For now, the Cubs are projecting that Bryant and his athletic 6-foot-5-inch frame will stay at third base and not be shifted to the outfield.
“We do think that in the immediate future he’s going to play third base for quite awhile,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. “If there’s a time that comes down the road where he continues to grow or continues to get a little stronger and we feel that a move may be necessary, then we’ll deal with it.
“But you’re going to see ‘third base’ next to Kris Bryant’s name in the near future.”
McLeod grew up in San Diego, used to work for the Padres and has a tight relationship with the Toreros coaching staff, which gave the Cubs unique insight into Bryant that they blended into their earlier reports from the national showcase circuit.
As an academically-oriented senior at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, Bryant and his camp had signaled that it would take something close to first-round money to sign him. He fell to the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2010 draft and stuck with the college route.
Bryant developed into a finalist for USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award and picked up national player of the year hardware. He interviewed well with McLeod, general manager Jed Hoyer, amateur scouting director Jaron Madison and team president Theo Epstein.
“He won two World Series with the Red Sox, so it was just crazy to actually sit down and talk to him face-to-face,” Bryant said. “It’s something that I’m going to definitely remember forever and be able to tell my kids and grandchildren that I was able to sit down in college and meet Theo Epstein face-to-face.”
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Bryant has never been to Chicago before, but said his mother’s side of the family has ties to the city. Other than that…
“I know they haven’t won a World Series in awhile,” Bryant said, “so hopefully I can do all that I can to help the Cubs win one.”
The Cubs are 24-33 following a 101-loss season and looking up in a National League Central where the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates appear to be built to last.
But on nights like this, visions of “The Core” start to come into focus at Clark and Addison.
“We’ll feel really good once we’re winning more games at the major-league level and we have the pipeline of talent coming through the minor leagues,” McLeod said. “But we feel good about who we’ve acquired so far. It’s easy to sit back right now and let your mind kind of get away from you and think about the possibilities of the (Jorge) Solers and the (Javier) Baezes and the Bryants joining Rizzo and Starlin.”