Prospect Q&A: Bryant on fast track

No. 4 Cubs prospect embraces steep learning curve in Minors

Kris Bryant smacked nine homers in his first 36 professional games. (Mark LoMoglio/Tampa Yankees)

By Ashley Marshall / | December 3, 2013 5:00 AM ET

When the Chicago Cubs selected Kris Bryant with the second overall pick in June's Draft, they had a pretty good idea what they were getting.

At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, the 21-year-old third baseman is what scouts like to describe as "projectable." He has raw power at the plate and good instincts in the field. He's intelligent, coachable and the son of a former professional baseball player who spent two years in the Red Sox organization.

Ranked 35th on's Top 100 prospects list, Bryant hit .336 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 36 games across three levels in his first season in the Minors. He was one of seven players the Cubs sent to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, where he batted .364 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 20 contests en route to MVP honors. spoke with the No. 4 Cubs prospect about his experiences in Arizona, his memories from the day he got drafted, the one class in high school where he didn't get an "A" and the home run that earned him $100 from his father. MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League -- that's a pretty good way to wrap up your first six months in professional baseball, huh?

Kris Bryant: I had a whole lot of fun getting to know some of the other guys from different organizations and seeing how they go about their business. I'm still new to this whole Minor League life, so I'm just trying to learn the game. So far, so good.

Everybody on these teams is really approachable, and everyone has a good head on their shoulders. I got to know the guys on the Cubs -- it's cool to get to know them and get to have fun with them. You have Albert Almora, who is a great player and a good person, and there's Jorge Soler and Wes Darvill. Everybody here from the Cubs is a good player. You only made your professional debut in July. How has the learning curve been, especially facing the best young pitchers in the game?

Bryant: I still have a whole lot to learn and I have to figure out how pitchers are going to get me out. Starting out well is good, but I have a lot to learn. You have to face the best to play in the big leagues. I know it will help me in the future. You've been moving nonstop ever since you got drafted this summer. What can you take from your first season?

Bryant: It has been crazy, but it sure has been a whole lot of fun. I've played in different cities and I feel like it hasn't stopped. This summer and fall I'll remember forever. It's been a fun journey so far, and hopefully I can stick to it. I feel extremely blessed.

Winning the championship in the Florida State League with Daytona was a whole lot of fun. I went into there and they all welcomed me and I was glad to help the team win. I got a ring and that is something I will remember for a very long time. It's a moment I'll want to keep.

Later in life I will reflect on my first half-season of professional baseball. I've been fortunate to have a good start to my career so far. The most important trophy is the World Series ring, and I want to get that. I need to keep working hard and keep getting better as a ballplayer. Take me back to when you started playing. What's your most memorable moment as a kid playing ball in Nevada?

Bryant: My first home run. I was 8 years old. My dad told me the day you hit your first home run, I'll give you $100. That was a whole lot of money, you could do a lot with that. I was playing in Las Vegas for the Redbirds in fall ball Little League.

The day I did it, I remember running around the bases and my dad came out as I got 'round third base. He picked me up and gave me a hug. That was one of the most special moments. The ball landed on a bridge over center field. Speaking of your father, Mike, who was drafted by the Red Sox and spent a couple years in the Minors -- how important to your baseball development was it to have someone like him in your life?

Bryant: He was extremely important. Just having him throwing to me in the cage every day. It's been extremely good to have a dad like that. He didn't push me to play the game -- it was always me going up to him and asking him to throw to me in the cage.

He owned his own furniture store, but he decided to sell it to be more hands-on with me and my brother. He wanted to set his own hours for us. Not too many people have dads like that. Most people work 9-to-5 jobs, and my dad was fortunate to make his own hours. He was in the cage pitching to me and hitting ground balls at me and my mom was making sure my education was important. What advice did he give you?

Bryant: He played a couple years in the Minors, so he talked to me about stuff to avoid and what to do differently. It was good to pick his brain and figure out how to go about my business. He has been the best resource for me, just to learn about the mental side of the game, because baseball is built around failure and you will have a bad game. He told me to stay positive and have a level attitude. And did you get a chance to play with your older brother, too?

Bryant: I didn't really get a chance to play with him growing up. I played wiffleball in the street and then at Little League, but it wasn't really until high school when we played better competition and played together. He was at first base and I was at third base or shortstop. He picked a lot of balls for me.

It was good to have family competition. It wasn't as friendly as we always wanted to be, but everybody always wants to be better than their brother. He was always the guy I looked up to, and now he's my No. 1 fan. He's a great brother to have. Between playing high school baseball and on travel teams, how did you balance your school work?

Bryant: I would probably say I was a perfectionist. I always did well in school, and that was because of my mom making sure we had our homework done before TV and that we were in bed at a certain time. It really taught me how to go about my work in college and in high school.

I always tried hard in my school work. I liked math, that always came easy to me, and I found science interesting. I got one "B" in high school in pre-calc. Then I got an "A" in calc, so I guess I learned my lesson. I was the salutatorian, the runner-up or the first loser. I had the second-best GPA.

People playing sports in high school don't always focus on school as much as they should, and I'm a big believer in education. You need to educate yourself. School teaches you life lessons you can't learn in the real world. Toronto selected you in the 18th round of the 2010 Draft out of high school. How hard was it to turn that opportunity down to go to college?

Bryant: It was actually pretty easy. I knew that I wanted to go to school and the coaches at USD [University of San Diego] were really loyal to me, and they had been recruiting me as a sophomore in high school.

I met some really good people there, and it was the best decision I've ever made. I wasn't really a standout my freshman year in high school by any means. At that point, it was all based on projection and what the coaches saw. I was pretty excited when people started recruiting me.

The USD coaches told me everything about the school, and it was everything I wanted to be part of. It made it easier to transition to professional baseball. In high school, you are playing three days a week. In college, it's five days a week with workouts every other day You got a lot of attention at San Diego this spring when you smacked a home run over the light tower in left field against Saint Louis. What do you remember from that game?

Bryant: The thing I remember the most is that I felt so sick during the game. I had a stomach bug or something. The guy [reliever James Norwood] was throwing pretty hard and I figured he was going to throw me a fastball. I told myself that if he threw me a fastball first pitch, I was swinging.

I felt terrible, but it was the best home run I ever hit. It is a special memory I have. I really have no idea how far it went. Some said 550 feet, others said 500 feet. I still don't know. Some say it went over the light tower at school. It was a good one. Take me back to the day of the Draft this summer. What do you remember from that day?

Bryant: I think I just remember the pause the Cubs had when they made their pick. I just went into it with a positive attitude and knowing it would be better than last time I went through it. I was around my close friends and family, and to have them there was amazing.

I didn't even know how to react. My mom started crying and my dad was full of joy. I was completely speechless. We taped it on the TV so I could watch it later. I've definitely seen it five or 10 times. The whole night was just really special. That is why I taped it. I wanted to be able to relive that moment. Every time I watch it, I just smile because it's all about the hard work I've put into the game. That moment was when it all paid off. The Cubs gave you a multi-million dollar signing bonus when they drafted you. How humbling is it that a team has that much faith in you so early in your career?

Bryant: I didn't really think about it. I had the confidence in myself that I could do it. The first go-around [in the Draft] didn't work out how I had hoped, so I went into college with a chip on my shoulder. I can't really put into words how good it felt that those guys had that much confidence in me to do something that I had been doing my whole life.

I could not be more happy to be a Cub. I just want to be the best that I can possibly be. [When you] watch the World Series, you want to be the best. You want to be on that stage, that guy helping your team win in any way possible. That's what motivates you to take extra ground balls and extra swings off the tee.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to 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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