By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) It’s June.
So, where’s Kris Bryant?
Well, on Monday night, the No. 2 pick of the 2013 MLB First-Year Draft was down in Tennessee blasting his 18th home run of the season for the minor league Smokies and driving in three runs to stretch his Southern League-leading mark to 49 RBIs.
Those numbers weren’t quite good enough to help the Chicago Cubs’ Double-A affiliate beat the Birmingham Barons, as the Smokies fell 4-3. But are they good enough to help the Chicago Cubs themselves?
I believe so. And I’d like to see Bryant get his shot in the big leagues.
Now, not later.
After Monday night’s output, the 22-year-old Bryant now leads the Southern League in an incredible nine offensive categories, including all three Triple Crown statistics of home runs, RBIs and batting average (.350). His 18 homers ranks third among all minor leaguers.
The big league Cubs, meanwhile, have been shut out in three of their last five games, own a team batting average of .231 and currently have the worst record in baseball at 20-34.
Because they can’t provide wins, the Cubs continue to promise their increasingly agitated fan base the future. And here in 2014, which is Year 4 of the Ricketts family ownership and Year 3 of the Theo Epstein era, those fans deserve to start seeing some of that future promise in the form of Kris Bryant.
As a polished college product now putting up prodigious minor league numbers, I see no truly good reason why Bryant should continue to toil in Tennessee when he appears to be ready for his shot in Chicago. Last week, CSN analyst Todd Hollandsworth said the same as he advocated the Cubs promoting Bryant to the bigs.
“You have to learn it up here, you have to play up here, you have to learn if you can stand on your own two feet at the major league level,” said Hollandsworth, who debuted at age 22 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and a year later was named the 1996 National League Rookie of the Year. “So the sooner you get these guys going, that’s when the process really starts.”
And if ever a process needed to really start, it’s the Cubs’ rebuilding one. The ball club, however, appears to be dragging its feet on bringing up Bryant, much like it seems to drag its feet on Wrigley renovations and any other measures of making tangible progress.
About Bryant, manager Rick Renteria said last week, “He’s doing very, very well, and we’re happy he’s doing very, very well. I’ll say this, even when you get to the big leagues, you always have some room to learn.
“That he wouldn’t have anything left to learn at Double-A, I guess that could be debated. As an organization, everyone is comfortable with where he’s at. The organization will make a decision (later) as to how he will progress.”
But why? What’s wrong with right now? The Cubs, after all, brought Anthony Rizzo up at age 22 (after he’d already debuted for San Diego at 21) and brought Starlin Castro up at the tender age of 20. It’s tough to argue that Bryant, with his college background and current monster numbers, is any less prepared than either of them were.
I also don’t buy the argument that if the Cubs were to bring Bryant up now and start his service-time clock that they would risk losing him to free agency a year sooner. Because, if Bryant truly is all he’s cracked up to be, then the Cubs surely will sign him to a long-term deal – a la Rizzo and Castro – long before he ever nears free agency. As a result, the reasons to promote seem to outweigh the reasons not to do so.
The reality is, with team on pace to lose 102 games, now is not the Cubs’ time. But for Kris Bryant, I’d argue the time indeed is now.
So, how about we see him?