Is Kris Bryant The #1 Prospect In Baseball?
Kris Bryant answered critics with a dominant 2014. Between stops at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, the slugging third baseman compiled a .325/.438/.661 triple slash, good for a 1.098 OPS. Showing both power and speed (43 home runs and 15 stolen bases), Bryant laid claim to the title of the best prospect in baseball. ROTOscouting’s Chris Blessing scouted the offensive juggernaut in Tennessee earlier in the year. Has the profile changed as Bryant adds the finishing touches?
Checking in at a lean 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Kris Bryant more than passes the eye test. Bryant boasts an athletic frame with broad shoulders. He has average speed at present, but the 22-year old will slow down as he ages and adds muscle through the lower half. With power to challenge any Major League park, added weight will help him sustain the rigors of a 162 game season.
Power has always been Bryant’s calling card, which was on display during the I-Cubs’ trip to Tacoma. His swing is simple with little wasted movement and most dangerous on the outer half (or at least when Bryant fully extends). In game one a two-game look, Bryant took a mid-thigh cutter on the outside corner and deposited the pitch over the fence in right field. And in the home finale for the Rainiers, the right-hander smashed a belt-high fastball left over the plate off the batter’s eye wall in dead center. Standing 425 feet away and 29 feet tall, the young slugger missed clearing the fence by a mere eight feet and settled for a stand-up triple.
Kris Bryant’s in game power allows him to effortlessly drive the ball to all fields. Possessing explosive hip rotation (rather than over-reliance on bat speed), Bryant generates natural loft and carry. Watching the former first round pick mash to the opposite field in Wrigley will remind Cubs fans of Chris Davis at his best.
Kris Bryant’s ability to turn raw power into game power is enhanced by his batting approach. The Las Vegas native will rack up strikeouts, but used this season to hone his eye after a steady diet of off-speed pitches. Bryant doesn’t chase much, which should lead to high walk totals and robust on-base percentages. However, he’s still fooled frequently. He will alternate being behind fastballs and ahead of off-speed pitches. Still, the slugger more than held his own after rocketing through the Cubs system and holds a .327 career batting average in the minor leagues.
The most underrated component of Kris Bryant’s game is his speed. In 138 games this season, Bryant swiped 15 bases. Expecting the slugger to further develop stolen-base ability is unreasonable — his speed is best underway — but adding double-digit steals from a source of power like Bryant is every fantasy owner’s dream. At present, only two players in baseball (Mike Trout and Stanton) have reached the 30-home run, 10-stolen base plateau. Bryant projects to join an elite group of players and has the ability to achieve those numbers as soon as 2015.
Due to a dearth of top prospects in the upper minor leagues, projecting where Kris Bryant will play in the field is still a question mark. Possessing above-average arm strength and enough speed for the outfield, it’s easy to envision Bryant shifting to right field. However, with the rapid transition of Jorge Soler (and the Cuban’s missile for an arm), it seems wasteful to exile one to left field and negate either player’s throwing arm.
While an outfield assignment might ease the transition, Bryant’s value-maximizing position is third base. At 6-foot-5, Bryant isn’t particularly agile, but possesses the ability to make routine plays. He has fine instincts, reacting quickly to slow rollers and balls hit sharply to his left or right. Making throws across the diamond is a struggle due to his long frame. The future All-Star has more than enough glove to warrant an extended look at third in 2015, well before the Cubs brass has to decide what to do with Addison Russell.
Kris Bryant is not a five-tool player, but a well-rounded skill set with elite power makes him one of the most compelling prospects in years. As players like Brandon Wood can attest, success is not guaranteed despite posting robust minor league numbers. Still, Bryant’s ability to hit .275 with 35+ home runs and 10-15 stolen bases makes him a cornerstone for the Cubs.
TOOL PRESENT FUTURE PROJECTED ROLE ALL-STAR CALIBER THIRD BASEMAN OR RIGHT FIELDER Hitting Ability 45 50 Power 70 75 Speed 50 40 Fielding Ability 45 50 Arm 60 60
Owning Kris Bryant
At the moment, Bryant is the most untouchable prospect in fantasy baseball. Beyond the prodigious power, his ability to post double-digit steals sends his value into the stratosphere. In base 5×5 leagues, is it safe to expect the right-handed slugger to post seasons similar to what Edwin Encarnacion accomplished in 2013 (.272 with 36 home runs and 7 steals)? If so, then expect Kris Bryant to develop into one of the top-15 hitters in fantasy baseball. And if he can inch those numbers up to Adam Jones territory (.285 with 33 home runs and 14 stolen bases), the Cubs product breaks into the top-5. Consider him a must own in all dynasty formats and act accordingly. And if one already has the keys to Kris Bryant’s MLB career, the only thing to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. – Mike Newman
3 Sep 2014 / Ben Flajole /
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