By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
February 18, 2013
Kris Bryant is seen here in a composite of many of the looks I had at him in the 2012 season. Since this is his draft year, take a look, and we’ll run it over.
I like Bryant, but he is a guy who needs to get more consistent at all aspects of the game. His father might want to kill me for saying this in public, but I’m just saying what the scouts are thinking and what the instructors will say, and that’s part of my charm. If you look at Bryant with a really critical eye, you can find things to work on. Talented players warrant the critical eye, at least they do for me. The guys who can take third party opinions should do well for themselves.
The first thing is that he does swing and miss quite a bit. Don’t get into stats with me, I’m talking about average swings against average stuff.
Everybody swings and misses, right, but I’ve seen him have average at-bats against average West Coast Conference pitching or ordinary college pitching. You can’t do that in pro ball. I’m not going to say, well, look at his numbers and that can’t be right. Because it can be right. It doesn’t mean he can’t hit. He can hit. But it means there needs to be a consistency from pitch to pitch, selection, identification, experience, adjustments. You can’t be a guy who looks for a certain pitch in a certain area all the time. People are going to start jamming you. Look, Harper still hasn’t learned how to hit the curveball. At some point, Bryant is going to start seeing better stuff middle-in, up and in, down and in. He’ll start seeing power stuff in those spots — and he has to prove he has the ability to combat those weapons. People will also note the length in the swing and attack him at the higher levels with obscenely hard breaking stuff.
Nobody doubts he has the hands to get that stuff, but he needs to show now that he has the consistency to get to that stuff. I think at this point he is too dominant in his conference for his own good. It might help you in the draft, but it also can hurt you in the long run. So Bryant needs to find ways to show he is getting better and that he’s not just a guy putting up numbers against inferior pitching. Otherwise he looks like a guy putting up big numbers in the Cal League. All young pro hitters must learn to do this, and Bryant’s ability warrants a tougher eye than many. And as I like to say, if you can’t handle me, you’re going to love pro ball.
The second aspects are the fielding and running. There are too many people in baseball who think Bryant can’t play third base in the big leagues, which is too bad, because if he could prove he could play third everyday, he’d really be putting himself in a prime position. I’m not sure Bryant himself is convinced he’s a third baseman. He has enough arm for the position in college, but scouts and player development people are going to ask the hard questions — can you move well enough over there, can you get down low enough, can you make consistent throws. Nobody is going to expect him to be Brooks Robinson, but they are going to expect to see him make the routine plays with routine range. As a high school shortstop, he should have that pedigree but it hasn’t been conclusively proven in college. I mean, people had no doubt Longoria was a third baseman coming out of college. I mean, none. People aren’t sold Bryant is a third baseman, and that’s something to be addressed. I have heard that a good many times now. I’ve always been a proponent of him playing third, but you’d have to say he looks stiff in this video. Believe me, I have a ton of infield video and this is the best I’ve got. You wanna be Mike Schmidt, play third. You wanna be just another guy, play the outfield.
Running. He runs decently for a big man, but he needs training to become a better runner. He needs to become more athletically coordinated going first to third or second to home. Nobody will expect him to be a burner. If he surprises people, fine, but he needs to not neglect this side of his game. He also needs to watch his body because it has already become fuller and stronger, but he needs to make sure it doesn’t make him a guy without a position.
Hitting is and always has been where it’s at with him. That’s why I’m saving it for the end. You can’t take away from him what he does well. The hands are there, the bat speed is there, the raw power is there. He has always had uncommon raw power for a college player, even with these tin can bats. He has been schooled well as a hitter over the years. He should proceed to the majors in a regular fashion. But what kind of big leaguer he becomes I think is up to Bryant. It’s not up to anybody else. It’s in his hands. He has a chance to be a dominant major league run producer. Or he has a chance to be an underachiever, who puts up good numbers, but could be more. I would urge him to push it. He will be temped to be “just good enough.” I think that would be a waste of his ability.