MIAMI – The long wait is finally over for Cubs fans. Top prospect Kris Bryant is heading to Triple-A Iowa, leaving him one giant step away from Wrigley Field.
All this less than a calendar year after Bryant signed his first professional contract, getting a $6.7 million bonus as the No. 2 overall pick out of the University of San Diego.
Maybe The Plan is coming into focus, even while No. 1 starter Jeff Samardzija gets moved out of the picture. The Cubs won second their second straight road series with Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over the Miami Marlins.
The big-league club left Marlins Park with a 30-40 record and returned home after a 5-5 trip. Des Moines becomes the most interesting place in the Cubbie universe with Bryant, Javier Baez and the anticipated arrival of player/coach/lightning rod Manny Ramirez. Flame-throwing relievers Arodys Vizcaino and Armando Rivero also got promoted to Iowa.
“As soon as we need (Bryant) here, we have to bring him here,” said Starlin Castro, who went 3-for-5 with two RBI. “As soon those guys come in here, we’ll play a lot better.”
The Cubs made the move after Bryant did exactly what the front office asked him to do at Double-A Tennessee: Dominate.
Bryant led the Southern League in the Triple Crown categories, showed his defensive potential as a third baseman and even stole eight bases. He was hitting .355 with 22 homers and 58 RBI in 68 games with the Smokies.
Bryant already won the Southern League’s Home Run Derby and played in its All-Star Game this week, making it a natural point for the promotion that had been such a hot-button issue on Twitter and Chicago radio stations.
“I don’t really pay much attention to it,” Bryant told The Game 87.7 FM. “I try to stay away from reading about myself or looking up the stats and the numbers, because I’m all about just avoiding those distractions. That’s a big part of why I’ve had some success this year.
“I’m not focusing on what people are saying about me. I realize it’s part of the game (and) I think I’ve handled it pretty well so far.”
Whether it’s Baez or Kyle Schwarber, the No. 4 overall pick just promoted to Class-A Kane County, the kids are going to go viral and get dissected as the Cubs bet everything on their farm system.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates made Rick Renteria a first-round pick in 1980, the future Cubs manager might have gotten a phone call from his hometown newspaper in Southern California, and saw a local reporter when he showed up to the complex in Florida.
“The moment-to-moment media coverage that goes on, that was nonexistent for us, obviously,” Renteria said. “But hopefully they’re handling all of that well. The biggest thing for me is they’re handling what they’re doing on the field.”
Within the past year, Bryant has helped advanced Class-A Daytona win a Florida State League title, become the Arizona Fall League MVP and emerged as Baseball America’s No. 8 overall prospect heading into this season.
“I’m hopeful that those guys are just more concerned about what they’re doing on the field, because the landscape has changed,” Renteria said. “Part of their growth is going to be understanding all this, and I think they’ll do fine. We have a lot of good people down in the minor leagues that can help them navigate through the whole process.”
So now the question becomes: When’s Bryant getting here?
The Cubs won’t be in a rush to call up a Scott Boras client. If Bryant keeps hitting at Iowa, maybe it becomes an interesting debate for offseason planning, but a good bet would be sometime after Opening Day 2015.
“We are well aware of the things Bryant has been doing at Double-A,” winning pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “Now bringing him up to Iowa, I’m sure he’s going to continue to swing the bat well and Baez is kind of on the same note. Those are two plus-plus bats with the ability to come up here and have an impact right away. And whenever the time’s right, we look forward to seeing them.”