BLUF: Best college position player in the draft with middle-of-the-order potential and good polish.
The Player: Kris Bryant (3B/OF, San Diego) – Turned down the Blue Jays as an 18th round pick in 2010, attending San Diego and posting a .365/.482/.599 line with nine home runs as a freshman. Showed well again as a sophomore with a .366/.483/.671 line with 17 doubles and 14 home runs. Mechanical changes and general polish have led to an explosive junior season that currently stands with a .338/.496/.876 line, 12 doubles, 30 home runs, and more walks than strikeouts.
Basis of Report: Compilation – Industry Contacts
Body (6-5, 220): Muscular, strong frame. Physically imposing. Looks the part of a slugger when he walks off the bus. Physically mature and not much left to do here. Could see some additional strength with a pro workout/conditioning routine, but wouldn’t expect significant changes.
Hit: Hit utility has improved dramatically with altered stance/mechanics. Wider base allows for improved balance and reduced movement with his head. Quick trigger gets the bat started in a hurry and he has the hand-eye coordination to get the barrel of the bat to the ball on time and with the proper plane. Shows good lift in swing without stretching to uppercut. Generates hard line drives to all fields. Swing can get a little long, leading to some miss in the offensive game, but nothing that will prevent him from tapping power and hitting enough to be a high-end player. Approach is solid and shows aptitude for adjusting to improved pitching. Should make adjustments at pro level and continue to hit at an average level with a chance for more than that if it all clicks. Grade – 40/50+
Power: Enormous raw. Can drive the ball out to all fields. Legit plus-plus power to pull side and easy plus power to opposite field. Oppo power continues to grow with more experience and trust of hands/swing mechanics. Good approach at the plate and is willing to wait for pitches. Can light up FB, even high velocity. Struggles at times with driving spin but is making strides. Plus-plus raw should translate to games at highest level. Potential 35+ homer middle-of-the-order masher. Grade (raw power) – 70/70
Arm: Above-average arm at both 3B and in RF. Release is long and delayed as infielder. Natural arm action works better in OF and he may gain a tick with focus on mechanics and release in OF. Easy above-average grades and could see slight uptick after more pro experience. Grade – 50/50+
Fielding: Lacks lateral quickness at 3B. Has decent hands and fields the balls within a step or two cleanly and consistently. Footwork has improved but still grades below-average. Long release on many throws and struggles with throws on the move. Fringy defender that is unlikely to stick on the dirt in pro ball. Shows solid instincts in RF and could stick there. Runs average once underway and has the range for the outfield corners. Arm plays in RF. Potential above-average defender in OF; likely destination as a professional. Grade – 50/50+ (as OF)
Speed: Shows fringe-average times down the line but shows better running ability once underway and speed plays decently in OF. Physically mature and likely to maintain speed through early part of career. Not a significant part of his overall game. Grade – 50/50
Summation: College has been very good for Bryant as he has polished his game significantly and will be able to move very quickly through a professional system. Will have to adjust to higher grade pitching at professional level so hit tool can play, but should get there quickly and all tools should play. Doesn’t get talked about as a five-tool player, but projects for all five tools at average level or above, including one near elite tool with power. Hitting ability projects pretty well to average level with good bat speed, an ability to adjust, a solid approach and a level of intelligence that suggests continued improvements can be made. Power is exceptional and could make him a star-level player. Defensive profile fits best in right field with solid range, good instincts and an above-average arm. A team that tries him at 3B could delay his path through the minor leagues as he polishes the rough edges, and even then he may not show better than fringe-average defense at the hot corner. Potential role 6 player with All-Star potential and middle-of-the-order thump.
Relative Risk: Moderate. Polished player that needs very little development to make an impact in pro ball.
Draft Projection: Top college bat in the draft and arguably the top power bat in the draft, with Clint Frazier as the only other contender. Home run barrage this spring has elevated draft stock and the rarity of his power profile should push him into the top five picks in the draft. Could enter the discussion at 1-2 and 1-3.