2013 MLB Draft Prep Ponders Kris Bryant

Mike Stobe

Is Kris Bryant a viable option for the Cubs' choice, the second overall pick in this year's draft?

Kris Bryant, the third baseman for the University of San Diego Toreros, is the third possibility for the Cubs selection with the second pick of the first round. At 6-5, 215 pounds, his body type says 'slugger'. He has 30 homers this season, in only the third such season with the new BBCOR bats. (Georgia Southern's Victor Roache took full advantage of a hitter-friendly home field to reach the mark in 2011, the first year with the newer, truer bats.) His 57/37 BB/K ratio is where you would want it. Opinion is mixed if Bryant can last at third base until the majors, though he certainly wouldn't sabotage a minor-league team's chances playing there. At worst, you're looking at a right fielder with willingness to walk, and ability to hit 35 homers, while hitting .250 or .260.

Does that justify the top pick?

In one of the kazillion blogs regarding the Cubs and or the draft, one of the gurus used the 'I know, but I can't say' comment on the Cubs interest in Bryant. In short, the Cubs are doing their homework on all three major candidates for the selection. If one of the pitchers (Stanford's Mark Appel or Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray) suffer a semi-major injury or a noticable velocity drop, Bryant is an option. Or, Team Theo might have been planning to select Bryant the entire time. After all, their line was to take hitting early and pitching later. There is no reason to tip off which name will be called in about three weeks. I would still expect it to be one of the pitchers, but I presume all three have been given complete background checks.

My 'preference' would be the one most likely to provide a 25+ WAR value over a big-league career. Whichever one the best argument could be made for, I'm fine with. Of all the ways to argue 'Best Available Player', that's the one I choose. Ceiling, or best possible result, is fine. However, most players fall far short of said ceiling. Ironically, some players 'exceed their ceiling' though I'd put forth that is just a whiff by the scouting people on assessing a ceiling. Others will opt for the 'best floor', or best worst-case scenario, but that would largely ignore pitchers. Ever.

One thing that should not creep into the discussion is strengths or weaknesses of the parent club. Just because Scott Feldman or Travis Wood are having a hot streak (or are having a cold spell in three weeks' time) should in no way talk a front office into selecting, or avoiding, pitching. All legitimate options are getting the fine-toothed comb treatment. Moreso than in prior management structures, I would guess. The bio-mechanics guys are deciding if any movement can be added to Appel's FB, or if Gray's delivery can be tweaked to make him that little bit better. Or, if Bryant can play third, or right field, with league-average competence. This is a very important pick. The front office will be ready for it.

***

In a curious story, Royals wunderkind prospect Bubba Starling is contemplating LASIK surgery. While it is by no means my original idea, I do hope the functional vision of current and future players is being considered to help improve the system's productivity. In a business where hand-eye coordination is such a key component to success, I hope vision tests are being provided to players considered for the top few rounds. It would be inconvenient to bankroll eye exams for dozens of potential draftees, but I hope something is at least considered for anyone who is drafted, or might be in line for an early selection. I'm not sure of the feasibility of it all, but to be "blindsided" two years later by vision trouble seems to be something that should have been avoidable.

***

Yes, there were games this past week. Most conference tournaments start this week, with the NCAA tourney looming as well. ESPN will be in full college baseball mode, as there is now a market for showing games. Oklahoma and Stanford could both be ''outside looking in' for the field, and that would be fine for me. To be honest, I'm going to be largely in 'wait and see' mode with many of the Cubs' picks. I'd rather edit an article or listen to the Smokies play than over-assess five starting pitching options for the selection at 2.2 (the 41st overall pick). Once drafted, I'll happily go back to review a pitcher's or hitter's recent exploits.

Mark Appel's Stanford squad defeated California 9-8, but Appel fanned 11 and walked only one in his seven-inning stint. He allowed nine hits and five runs (four earned) in just over 100 pitches. For Appel, numbers aren't that important anymore. If he finishes his outing healthy, and makes a few pitches over 100, that's fine. His strikeout numbers were good as well. Appel probably won't have more than two starts left in college.

Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma was less impressive than Appel this past weekend. Similarly, it isn't important. Gray fanned only three in a no-decision against Kansas State; his team lost 6-5 over the weekend. Gray also gave up nine hits and walked one. Both Gray and Appel may be hitting the 'dead arm' period that many pitchers face. Both are in the 100 season innings range, and a bit of mediocrity often happens around then.

Kris Bryant's slash line is .338/.496/.876. In college. With bats modified to play like wood bats.

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