After a meteoric rise, Chicago Cubs uber-prospect Kris Bryan made his MLB debut over the weekend. It was the culmination of a journey that began during his time with the San Diego Toreros, one of the most successful baseball programs in the West Coast Conference.
Bryant made an immediate impact for the Toreros becoming one of their top hitters as a freshman. But it was his final season as a junior that put him on the national stage. He hit 31 home runs for the Toreros that year, a massive total that was higher than the team totals for the majority of Division 1 programs. It led to Bryant winning the 2013 Golden Spikes Award, an honor given to the best college baseball player in the nation.
MLB scouts took notice of his slick fielding and power bat, and he shot up draft boards eventually being taken with the #2 overall pick by the Cubs. It made Bryant the highest drafted player in both San Diego and WCC history.
Bryant’s success continued in the minor leagues. He tore through every level of competition, and he entered 2015 widely regarded as the best prospect in baseball. He did nothing to to deny that claim as he led the Majors in home runs during Spring Training.
Most fans and media were clamoring for Bryant to open the season with the Cubs, by an unpopular rule caused the the Cubs to send him down to the minors for the first 12 days of the season. By doing that, they were able to delay Bryant’s service time to allow them extra years of control before he hits free agency. The rule has been criticized often, but Bryant’s massive success in Spring Training allowed the Cubs little room to justify their decision to send him down as being for any other reason than to control Bryant longer and save money.
More from West Coast Convo
- Get Conference News, in the New FanSided Android App
- West Coast Convo Madness: Win $500 or an Apple TV from RetailMeNot and LockerDome
- FanSided Madness: Win $500 or an Apple TV from RetailMeNot and LockerDome
- Get Instant Conference News, in the New Sports Illustrated App
- Make sure a Conference fan is crowned Fan of the Year
But Bryant is now in the big leagues, and the hype should follow him wherever the Cubs go. It was appropriate that he made his debut in a weekend series against the Padres, the hometown MLB team from where he played in college for the Toreros. Bryant had a less than stellar debut going 0-4 with 3 strikeouts on Friday, but he bounced back going 3-6 over the final two games of the series including picking up his first career RBI on Saturday.
Time will tell if Bryant will stick at third base for the Cubs. Fellow top prospect Addison Russell is nearing a call-up himself, and the shuffling of the infield to accommodate him may lead to Bryant being shifted to the outfield. Despite spending his entire career at USD at third base, many MLB scouts projected him as an outfielder when he was drafted. He has proven he can handle the hot corner, and he made some great plays over the weekend despite picking up an error. In the end, the surplus of infield prospects the Cubs have will be a bigger in determining if Bryant makes a move to the outfield or not.
Despite the slow start, Bryant has proven he has a big league bat and can be an impact player at the highest level. It’s exciting for Cubs fans and Major League Baseball, but also for the WCC. The conference has a rich history of success in baseball, but has never had a truly elite superstar come from its ranks. Bryant has a chance to be the first one, and having a marquee player to point to would be great. While the WCC has and always will be a basketball conference, Bryant can help more people take notice of the fact that the WCC is just as good, if not better in some years, at baseball as they are at basketball.