10/23 Bryant & AFL update
Kris Bryant was 2-for-4 and Albert Almora drove in a run for the Mesa Solar Sox in a 4-2 loss to Surprise Saguaros on Tuesday in Arizona Fall League play. Bryant is leading the AFL with a .438 average. On Wednesday, Mesa travels to Scottsdale Stadium for a game against the Scorpions.
Bryant also leads the AFL in home runs (four), runs (10), RBIs (13), and slugging (.906). Going from short-season Boise to the AFL is a big jump — most of the players in the Fall League are the team’s top prospects — but Bryant, 21, feels he’s ready. He’s paced himself well. The Blue Jays drafted him in the 18th round in 2010 but he opted to go to the University of San Diego instead of turning pro. This past college season, he led the nation with 31 home runs. The Cubs selected him in the first round of the Draft.
You can’t miss Bryant at the plate. He has a wide stance that seems to stretch beyond the batter’s box. He used to stand more upright but 10 games into his sophomore season in college, a hitting coach suggested he make a change.
“If I widened out and squatted down, the low pitch was easier to hit and my head stays still,” Bryant said. “It’s really been working for me. I know there are some people who think I could do things differently and I’m open to whatever anybody has to say to me. I’ve been doing it this way for a while and I feel comfortable.”
One of Bryant’s best characteristics is his willingness to learn. Many of the Cubs’ Minor League coaching staff described him as a “sponge,” eager to listen and learn.
“Getting to know Kris in the short period of time [he’s been with the Cubs], he’s going to make adjustments when he feels things aren’t right or he feels he needs to make some type of physical adjustment,” said Anthony Iapoce, the Cubs’ Minor League hitting coordinator. “He’ll start making those on his own, or he’ll come and question, and say, ‘Hey, I want to do this.’ He won’t sit there and keep making outs. He’s going to find a way to adjust, or he wouldn’t be the second pick in the Draft.”
The question most Cubs fans now have is when Bryant will be in the big leagues. Will he be in the 2014 Opening Day lineup?
“I can’t say that,” Bryant said. “I would love to, but it depends on how I play, and that’s what it goes back to. I’m just going to play as hard as I can. If I’m doing well, things will take care of themselves.”
(For more on Bryant, check out my story on Cubs.com, which will be posted later today)
— Carrie Muskat