Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod thinks first-round draft pick Kris Bryant will advance through the minor league system quickly.
Bryant, a power-hitting junior third baseman from the University of San Diego, thinks faster.
Asked where he could start in an organization that selected him second overall as the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft opened Thursday, Bryant ultimately had designs on where he’d finish.
“I’m definitely going to leave it up to the Cubs to decide that [starting point], if we can make this deal happen,” Bryant said. “I obviously think I can play in the big leagues now. I have that type of confidence. But that’s not my decision.”
Kane County Cougars brass and fans would unquestionably welcome Bryant to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, where the Cubs’ 2012 first-round pick, center fielder Albert Almora, settled late last month.
Almora played with Rookie League Arizona and Short-A Boise after signing last summer, and was tabbed to begin the season with Class-A Kane County before breaking a hand in spring training. McLeod did not specify where Bryant would open his minor league tenure once he signs, but history suggests he might start ahead of where 19-year-old Almora did given Bryant’s college experience.
Experts widely considered Bryant – 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds – the top position player in the draft. He led the nation with 31 home runs while batting .329 with 62 RBIs in 62 games. Bryant also walked 66 times, and the Toreros later resorted to batting him leadoff when other teams pitched around him.
“We think he’s advanced,” McLeod said. “We think he’ll be able to go out and handle the competition right away.”
“Ultimately, he’ll tell us when he’s ready to move to the next level” with his play, McLeod added later. That echoed McLeod’s organizational stance from February, when he visited Geneva as part of a Meet the Cubs hot-stove event.
Bryant’s mother, Susie, is from Chicago, but he has not been to the city. Bryant mentioned the Cubs’ famed World Series title drought when asked for his previous knowledge of the franchise. He also said he watched the 2012 draft telecast and recalled Almora fondly.
Whether the two share a dugout at Wrigley Field, Fifth Third Bank Ballpark or Triple-A Iowa, cold weather is liable to enter into the equation. Bryant, a Las Vegas native, admitted he chose San Diego in part for its beaches and “perfect” climate, but he’s not worried about the chill.
“That’s nothing new to me,” he said. “I mean, if you square up a baseball, you don’t have to worry about playing in cold weather. It’s not going to hurt your hands too much.”