It’s hard not to be excited about Kris Bryant. The 21-year-old Chicago Cubs prospect stands 6-foot-5, weighs 215 pounds and has monster power from the right side. Drafted second overall this year out of the University of San Diego, where he hit a best-in-the-nation 31 home runs, he profiles as a bigger version of Ron Santo.
Based on early returns, that doesn’t qualify as hyperbole. The young third baseman hit .336/.390/.688 between Low-A Boise and High-A Daytona this summer. Assigned to the Arizona Fall League for further seasoning, he is currently leading the circuit with six home runs and a 1.182 OPS.
Bryant realizes he’s not ready for the big leagues. A student of hitting, he’s aware he needs more at bats before he’s fully prepared to take aim at the Wrigley Field bleachers. How many more is yet to be determined, but given his raw talent, he should be a force once he reaches Chicago.
Bryant talked about his offensive game — including wisdom passed to him via Ted Williams — in the final week of the minor league season.
Bryant on his hitting approach: “I try to make it simple. When you’re at the plate, you try to minimize your thoughts and not let the outside distractions get to you. But hitting a baseball is a hard thing to do. The pitcher has the advantage, because he knows what he’s throwing, and where he’s throwing. You have to go up there with a plan and figure out how he’s trying to get you out.
“I think you have to look for pitches in certain zones. In high school, you can get away with just looking middle and adjusting — and maybe a little in college. Here, you have to figure out how they’re approaching you. Pitchers know how they’ve gotten you out in the past, and you have to adjust your plan accordingly. A lot of it depends on the pitcher, but also, I’m a big guy, so I expect a lot of hard stuff in and some soft stuff away.
“You have to be ready for that mistake over the plate. The inside corner and outside corner, on the black, are pretty tough pitches to hit. Most of the time, all you can do is foul those off. On occasion you’ll hit one of those pitches hard, but for the most part, hitting is about taking advantage of mistakes. Pitchers aren’t perfect.”
On plate discipline and pitch recognition: “I don’t think they’re completely separate. In order to have good plate discipline, you have to recognize what pitches are coming. You have to be able to lay off stuff in the dirt, and even pitches a couple inches off the plate. Discipline and recognition go hand-in-hand.
“I did [get pitched around] at times. I don’t expect what happened to me in college to happen in pro ball. They challenge you a lot here — they throw strikes — and that’s what you want as a hitter. You want to go up there and hit the ball, as opposed to just taking your walks. You obviously take your walks, but I want to hit the ball and drive people in. I go up there looking for a good pitch to hit and try to make the most of it when I get it.”
On Joey Votto being criticized for being too patient: “I’ve heard that, and if you look at his numbers, what’s he’s doing is pretty good. It’s not like he isn’t driving in people and hitting home runs. When it’s all said and done, what they want him to do is be a productive hitter, and that’s what he is. As a hitter, you don’t really want to go up there looking for a walk, but you still have to be patient. Just don’t be too patient. I go up there with a lot of focus, because the first pitch might be a good one to hit.”
On being a power hitter: “That’s my best tool, so I definitely consider myself a power hitter. But I’m still making my way. I still have time to develop myself and become a better all-around player. As of right now, I guess that’s primarily what I am.
“I’m what you’d call a high-fly-ball hitter. Ever since I was little, I’ve always hit the ball high in the air. I’m a pretty tall guy and get a lot of leverage on the ball. There’s an occasional line drive home run, but most of them are high in the air.
“I try to spread it out evenly. I try to hit home runs to center field. If you’re doing that, it’s a pretty good swing. You don’t want to force balls to any field, or try to pull everything. You really want to stay on the ball and hit it to center. That’s what I try to do.”
On his hitting mechanics and Ted Williams: “I start out with a pretty wide stance. In college, I used to stand up straight. The biggest thing with my swing is that it’s kind of an uppercut — a slight uppercut. The pitcher is on a mound, so he’s throwing the ball down to you. In order to catch the bus, you kind of need a little bit of an uppercut. On flat ground, you’d want a more level swing.
“My dad has been my hitting coach since I was 5 years old, and he learned some things from Ted Williams. That’s kind of what he taught him, and it’s pretty good advice coming from a guy like that. My dad [Mike Bryant] was drafted by the Red Sox [in 1980] and Ted Williams helped coach him in two spring trainings. My dad soaked up a lot of what he told him, and he’s been passing it down to me ever since.”
On his future: “I don’t know what the plans are for me. I just know where I’m at right now, and I try to stay in the moment. I’m trying to get better. If I end up getting there sooner, rather than later, that would be great. But right now, I’m learning how to hit in High-A ball. I have a long way to go.”
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