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Bryant homers twice, plates six runs
Cubs' No. 2 prospect continues to raise bar on his own expectations
05/07/2014 11:14 PM ET

Expectations might have been unreasonably high on Kris Bryant entering the season.

The 2013 first-round pick showed flashes of brilliance in his first few months in pro ball and held his own in the Arizona Fall League against some of baseball's best young pitching prospects.

The hype didn't die down once Opening Day rolled around and Bryant homered in each of the first two games of the season. Following Wednesday's performance, expect the superlatives to begin again.

The Cubs' No. 2 prospect went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers, a double, a career-high six RBIs and four runs scored in Double-A Tennessee's 12-1 rout of Birmingham.

Considering what he's already achieved at the age of 22, he may have been only partly joking when he ranked his performance "top 10, probably."

"I get asked about [the expectations] a lot," said Bryant, the second overall pick last June. "The only expectations that matter are the ones you put on yourself. My expectations for myself are higher than any from my friends or fans or family. I've put the bar pretty high, so I don't worry about what people have to say about me, good or bad.

"I've been fortunate to have a pretty good baseball career so far and to have some good games, and this will be right up there."

Bryant hit a three-run homer off Birmingham starter Myles Jaye in the first inning and added a solo shot on an 0-2 slider off Jaye in the fifth.

"There was a guy on first base and less than two outs, so I'm just trying to get the ball in the air," Bryant said of his first homer on a 2-1 fastball. "The ball travels well to right field in our park and when I hit it I knew I got the job done.

"Just hitting the mistake pitch. We have guys like [left fielder] John Andreoli and [second baseman] Stephen Bruno who can steal some bases, so they threw me more fastballs and I took advantage of that."

After walking in the seventh, the Las Vegas native ripped a two-run double off the left-field wall in the eighth.

"I asked my hitting coach [Desi Wilson] where it went and he said it hit the fence," Bryant said. "It would have been cool to have a three-home run game, but I don't want to throw away at-bats, so I went up there with the mentality of being down by one run with runners on second and third."

Bryant, who said he had a three-homer game as a 9-year-old and another last year at the University of San Diego, hit nine roundtrippers in 36 games across three levels last season, posting a .336/.390/.688 slash line.

He appeared in 20 Fall League games with the Mesa Solar Sox, batting .364 in the prospect-laden finishing school, where he smacked six homers and drove in 17 runs. Among those outings was a two-homer, four-RBI contest against Surprise on Oct. 18, although that doesn't count among his Minor League statistics.

It might be easy to look down the road and speculate about his future in the Windy City, but Bryant is taking things slowly and concentrating on his performance on the field.

"I don't really like to look ahead," said MLB.com's No. 8 overall prospect. "I try to stay in the moment and focus on how I can get better every day. My dad told me that the numbers will take care of themselves if I go out there every day and focus on getting better.

"I've been playing a pretty good third base and making some pretty good plays, but I want to be more consistent. I can get better everywhere -- maybe make better contact and cut down on the strikeouts a little bit. It's my first full season and I'm learning a lot along the way."

Wednesday's performance lifted Bryant's batting average 16 points to .313. He leads the Southern League with eight homers, 17 extra-base hits, a .600 slugging percentage, 69 total bases and 26 runs scored. And he's fourth with 36 hits and a .428 on-base percentage.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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