By Bruce Levine–
(CBS) — The Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year was hailed for his many accomplishments during the 2014 season Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Third baseman Kris Bryant was saluted for burning through all four levels of the minor leagues while dominating with his offensive prowess at each stop along the way.
The College Player of the Year last season, Bryant has hit 83 home runs since the start of his 2013 season, which is comprised of his final year at San Diego State, the start of his minor league career in 2013 and this entire season in the minors.
The final stop for Bryant will be Wrigley Field sometime early in the 2015 campaign. Contract control of the young power hitter dictates a cautious timetable in bringing him to the big leagues. A 20-day minor league assignment in 2015 would give the Cubs an extra year of control before Bryant becomes a free agent six full seasons after that.
A position change could likely await Bryant when he shows up for spring training in Mesa, Ariz., next February. With a powerful arm and surprising lateral speed for a big man, the 6-foot-5 Bryant may find himself in left or right field as he prepares for the major leagues.
“They mentioned it (a possible position change) but told me I am a third baseman,” Bryant said Wednesday. “They told me to go into the offseason and get better at third base.”
A 22-year-old Nevada native, Bryant has dominated at every level since being selected second overall in the 2013 amateur draft. That adds a bit of angst to the waiting period for both Bryant and the fan base alike. Bryant hit 43 home runs and drove in 110 runs in 138 games combined at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa this season. He has hit 52 home runs in 174 minor league games.
As a cherry on top of his other awards, he was named MVP of the prestigious Arizona Fall League in 2013.
“From what we saw of him in the spring, he is a pretty mature young man,” Cubs manager Rickey Renteria said. “He should be very proud of his exploits for this year. He has done a great job. He should enjoy the moment.”
While meeting the media horde and watching some of his former Iowa teammates take batting practice Friday, Bryant was asked if he felt like he had been shunned.
“I don’t know if it is a disadvantage,” he said of not being called up with his minor league teammates. “I have a whole lot of confidence to go out there and perform at a high level. Learning from Javy (Baez) and Jorge (Soler) through their struggles, will help me if I am called up next year. That should give me a head start just based on what they’re experience has been.”
Bryant talked a lot about his work ethic. His plan is a routine of hard work, proper rest and great desire as keys to success. The direct manner in which in answers questions is probably the same way he goes about all the challenges he must face on the field. Asked about dealing with the business side of when his major league clock might start, Bryant handled the question as easily as a routine ground ball to third base.
“I definitely ignore it,” he said. “I am a person who hates distractions, and that is one of the biggest distractions in the game. All I can do is go out there and play the game.”
The Cubs will protect their rights to the player and continue to be gratified by his tremendous results in a short period of time.
“Kris is a great kid and he had a great year,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “He also handled himself perfectly off the field. We’re very proud of him.”
And as for when the Cubs will promote Bryant in 2015?
“He is getting close, and we have asked him to prepare for a six-month season in 2015,” Epstein said. “Hopefully it will be seven months (alluding to a playoff run ). It is too early to address specific timetables, but Kris has put himself in a position where he could spend the vast majority of 2015 in the big leagues.”