MESA, Ariz. — There will be plenty of eye-rolling this spring as the Chicago media descends upon the hyped prospects standing at their lockers.
Kris Bryant got a few looks from teammates when reporters surrounded him on Sunday morning inside the Cubs Park clubhouse. But it’s not his fault the entire organization’s business/baseball plans are betting everything on the kids. And this is what happens when you’re a No. 2 overall draft pick.
“I guess it is a little different, but I’ve never been the type to, you know, like all the attention,” Bryant said. “There’s a lot of guys in here that have been here for awhile and the focus should be on them. Because they’re the ones that have been here and I haven’t proven myself yet. So I’m out here trying to get better. And I will do that.”
Bryant mentioned “get better” 10 times during a group interview that lasted almost six minutes. He used some variation of “learning from the guys” five different times. He is a polished Scott Boras client, a baseball junkie and a finance major who was invited to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship during his time at the University of San Diego.
Bryant — whose athletic 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame has drawn comparisons to Jayson Werth — gave another diplomatic answer when asked about his long-term position.
“Right now, I am (a third baseman),” Bryant said. “I’ve been playing third my whole life. But growing up, I’ve also played some outfield, so it’s not completely foreign to me. I’ll played wherever coach tells me to play.”
At this time last year, Bryant was playing San Diego State University during the opening weekend of what turned out to be a spectacular junior season. At that point, he was projected as a potential first-rounder, but not a top-two pick.
Bryant led the nation in home runs (31), runs scored (80), walks (66) and slugging percentage (.820), winning the Golden Spikes Award, college baseball’s Heisman Trophy. By June, at least one American League general manager said Bryant had risen to the top of his draft board.
Bryant then hit .336 with nine homers, 32 RBI and a 1.078 OPS in 36 games at three different minor-league affiliates before becoming the Arizona Fall League’s MVP.
“He’s an extraordinary talent,” Boras said. “(It) usually takes two or three years in the minors to compete at that level. He was the MVP of it. So you can see when you’re doing that, you’re obviously very, very close.”
Staying in character, the 22-year-old Bryant won’t set any sort of timelines for reaching the big leagues.
“It’s crazy that a year has passed by,” Bryant said. “It’s been the best year of my life. It was a special one and I’m ready to make 2014 a memorable one, too.”
Bryant will likely begin the year at Double-A Tennessee and he won’t be expected at Wrigley Field until sometime during the 2015 season, so Cubs fans can look forward to another season of checking minor-league box scores.
When the interview ended, Albert Almora, the first player drafted here by the Theo Epstein administration, walked over to Bryant’s locker, ready for the early workout.
Together they are supposed to be part of The Core. But until then, Bryant just wants to keep his head down and go to work.
“That would be cool, but there’s a lot of good guys in this room right now,” Bryant said. “You can’t take (away) the fact that they’ve been here for awhile. So we’re here just trying to get better learning from them. And, hopefully, we’ll be able to make an impact someday.”