Sveum thrilled to add Bryant to Cubs core

Sveum thrilled to add Bryant to Cubs core
June 7, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

A month ago, it seemed like a sure thing the Cubs were going to select one of the top collegiate pitchers -- Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray -- with the No. 2 pick.

Instead, they ended up with the nation's top slugger in San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant.

"We got the best hitter in the draft," Dale Sveum said the day after the Cubs made Bryant the second pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. "He's an athlete, 6-foot-5, great body, can run, throw and obviously, we know about his power.

"Watching all the video on him, I loved his mechanics hitting and his strength and ability to hit the ball out of center field and right-center field is a plus. We got the best player in the draft, other than, obviously, the pitchers."

The pick may have surprised some, but in the days leading up to the draft, it was obvious the Cubs were very high on Bryant, who slugged 31 HRs with 62 RBI, 66 walks and a .329/.493/.820 line in 62 games for San Diego.

Bryant led the nation in home runs and has raw power that scouts grade out near the top of the scale. As Gray tested positive for Adderall earlier this week (though the Cubs said that was not a deciding factor in passing up on the Oklahoma righty), the Cubs have no doubts Bryant's power is genuine.

[RELATED: Why Cubs bet on Bryant and against Gray with No. 2 pick]

"The one thing you don't have to worry about anymore is the masking of [performance-enhancing drugs]," Sveum said. "If a guy has power, it's usually born in him instead of given to him somehow.

"The kind of leverage this guy creates from his swing and his ability to pull the ball -- as well as hit the ball out of the ballpark to center and right-center -- just doesn't come around all that often."

On a conference call with Chicago media Thursday, Bryant said he feels like he could hit in the majors right now. Sveum joked he checked with Cubs personnel, just to make sure he didn't have to slot Bryant in the lineup this weekend against the Pirates.

But Bryant's swing and approach at the plate is so polished, he could move quickly through the Cubs system.

"Whenever you get the best hitter in the draft, they've hit in the big leagues," Sveum said. "It's always hard to tell, but in history, guys like that usually don't take long.

"The [Ryan] Brauns, the [Troy] Tulowitzkis, all these guys that were the best hitters in the draft didn't take very long. Pretty good mechanics usually last and play well in the big leagues. It's always nice to have a guy that outhomered 200 major college teams."

[MORE: Cubs believe Bryant is ready for impact]

The Brewers made Sveum the 25th overall pick in the 1982 Draft, so the Cubs manager understands the expectations that come with a first-round selection. In just his second big-league season, Sveum hit 25 homers with 95 RBI before a freak leg injury derailed his career.

Sveum has been around the block as a coach, having spent time as the third base coach for the 2004 World Champion Red Sox before spending three years as the Brewers hitting coach. His expertise at breaking down a player's swing on video helped earn him the gig as the Cubs' manager during the rebuilding process.

Bryant will join Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Albert Almora among the Cubs' promising positional prospects to go along with the young core of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo at the big-league level. Even though he was unsigned at press time, the question already came up as to where the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Bryant would play if everything pans out.

"All that stuff takes care of itself," Sveum said. "The good thing about [Bryant] is his athleticism, his speed and his arm allow him to do other things on the field.

"Right now, just watching him, I don't see any problem at third base, just watching how he takes groundballs and his feet and his arm. It all plays. For a big guy, he can do a lot of good things."

The Cubs addressed their organizational pitching need in the second round by selecting Missouri left-hander Rob Zastryzny with the 41st overall pick. The 6-foot-3 junior carried just a 2-9 record despite a 3.38 ERA, .266 average against and 82 strikeouts in 90 innings.

"Just talking to the scouts and [scouting/player development chief Jason McLeod] about it, he finished up really well," Sveum said. "He can get to 94 mph and pitches at 91 mph with four pitches. He's a real good competitor.

"The record he has doesn't show because of the team he was on, but the more impressive thing was how he got better each year and finished the season really, really strong. The guy gets on the mound and competes with his fastball."