Kris Bryant

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Kristopher Lee Bryant

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Biographical Information[edit]

Third baseman Kris Bryant was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2010 amateur draft. He did not sign, opting to attend to the University of San Diego instead. In the 2013 amateur draft, the Chicago Cubs selected him with the second pick, after the Houston Astros had taken pitcher Mark Appel first overall. A week later, he was named winner of the Dick Howser Trophy. He signed with the Cubs and scout Alex Lontayo on July 12th, just before the deadline, for a record $6.7 million bonus, and he made his pro debut with the AZL Cubs on July 21st. He was later named the winner of the Golden Spikes Award, attributed to the best college baseball player in the United States.

In his first professional season, Bryant hit a combined .336/.390/.688 in 36 games, also spending time with the Boise Hawks of the Northwest League and Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League. He showed excellent power with 14 doubles, 2 triples and 9 homers in 128 at-bats, driving in 32 runs. After the season, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he continued to impress, winning the circuit's MVP award with a batting line of .364/.457/.727 in 20 games, leading the league with 6 homers, 56 total bases and 22 runs.

Bryant continued to impress in 2014, as he was in competition all season with Astros prospect Joey Gallo for the title of minor league home run leader. He began the year with the Tennessee Smokies of the AA Southern League, where he hit .355/.458/.702 with 22 homers and 58 RBIs in 68 games. He was promoted to the AAA Iowa Cubs on June 19th and then was selected to play in the 2014 Futures Game. Shortly after he hit his 40th homer of the year in mid-August though, he had to have a MRI on his foot after aggravating a preexisting injury, putting his question his debut with the Cubs that season. Fortunately, the exam revealed only a bruise, meaning that the youngster would be back in action after a few days' rest. While Cubs fans were anticipating his making his debut with the team that September, General Manager Jed Hoyer threw some cold water on August 29th when he explained that this wasn't in the team's plans because Bryant was not yet on the major league roster and he did not want to have to remove a player to bring up the young slugger to Wrigley Field. After the season he was named the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year and the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year after finishing the season with a combined batting line of .325/.438/.661, with 34 doubles and 43 homers, 118 runs scored and 110 RBIs.

The question for Bryant was now whether he would start the 2015 season as the Cubs' everyday third baseman, or whether the Cubs would seek to delay his arbitration clock by keeping him in AAA for a couple of months. Part of the answer may have come when the Cubs decided to hire Joe Maddon to manage the team that off-season, firing Rick Renteria after only one season, and splurging on free agent pitcher Jon Lester, giving fans a message that they planned to compete immediately and not two or three years down the road, making Bryant's presence in the line-up more likely. Bryant was one of the most-watched players in spring training for the Cubs, and displayed some of his power potential, hitting 6 homers in his first couple of weeks of Cactus League action. But, lo and behold, the Cubs seemed prepared to send him to AAA anyway, which made his agent Scott Boras boil over: "You are damaging the ethics and brand of Major League Baseball. Kris Bryant has extraordinary skills. Kris Bryant is a superstar. He has distinguished himself from all players at every level he's played. Everybody in baseball is saying he's a major-league player ready for the big leagues. [...] This is a flat ownership decision. Do they really want to win here?", Boras stated in an interview with USA Today on March 17th. Team president Theo Epstein replied that this was an organizational decision that had nothing to do with cost implications, the reason being that Bryant needed to polish his defensive play at third base. The Cubs did indeed send Bryant down to their minor league cap on March 30th, in spite of his power display, and Boras once again spoke to the press to condemn the decision, as did the Players' Association. For its part, Major League Baseball issued a statement that under the Basic Agreement, clubs have the sole prerogative of determining who is on their roster. That decision would lead to Bryant and the Philadelphia Phillies' Maikel Franco filing a grievance after the season over what they called a blatant manipulation of their service time.

As widely expected, as soon as the deadline for early arbitration eligibility passed, the Cubs announced that Bryant was being called up to Chicago, to report on April 17th, taking the place of Mike Olt, who had won the starting 3B job in spring training but who was placed on the disabled list with a hairline fracture in his wrist, the result of a hit-by-pitch. He made his debut the same day, starting at third base and batting clean-up against the San Diego Padres. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts but played excellent defense, starting a pair of double plays while handling 8 chances in a 5-4 Cubs loss. Things went better in his second game the next day, as he collected his first major league while reaching base five times, on two hits and three walks, in a 7-6, 11-inning win over the Padres. On April 20th, he collected 3 RBI to lead the Cubs to a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates; two of those came on a two-run double in the 7th inning, after which he advanced to third on the throw home, and then scored when Bucs catcher Francisco Cervelli let that throw get away from him. That made him 6 for 14 (.419) after 4 games. It took him a while, but he finally hit his first big league homer on May 9th, a three-run shot off the Brewers' Kyle Lohse in a 12-4 loss. That opened the floodgates for him, as he finished the month of May by earning Rookie of the Month honors in the National League. During the month, he hit .265/.365/.510 with 7 home runs, 20 runs scored and 22 RBIs. On June 17th, he hit his first career grand slam, teeing off against position player David Murphy to cap a 17-0 demolition of the Cleveland Indians. He reached another milestone on June 22nd with his first multi-homer game, connecting twice off Clayton Kershaw in a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. On July 27th, he hit his first walk-off homer, connecting for two runs off Colorado Rockies closer John Axford with two outs in the 9th inning to give the Cubs a 9-8 win. he had cooled down noticeably before that hit, batting only .177 in July until then although he did check another sign of imminent stardom by appearing in the 2015 All-Star Game. He was again the NL's Rookie of the Month in August, when he hit .330 with 7 homers and 20 RBIs. Fellow Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber also had a great month, and in combination with the outstanding pitching of Jake Arrieta, Chicago surged into the spot of the league's second wild card team with one month to go. On September 19th, he hit his 25th homer in a 5-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, tying the team's rookie record set by Hall of Famer Billy Williams in 1961. He set a new mark by hitting his 26th off Tyler Cravy of the Milwaukee Brewers on September 22nd. He ended the season with 26 homers, 99 RBIs and a .275 batting average while leading the NL with 199 strikeouts, the most ever by a rookie. He was voted the Rookie of the Year unanimously. In the postseason, he was hitless in the Wild Card Game, but had a triple and a homer as the Cubs upset the Cardinals in the NLDS, then went 3 for 14 with a double and a homer in the Cubs sweep at the hands of the New York Mets in the NLCS.

On April 21, 2016, he hit two homers, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs as the Cubs crushed the Cincinnati Reds, 16-0, behind a no-hitter by Jake Arrieta. On June 27th, he did something unprecedented in major league history as he hit three homers and two doubles in one game as he led the Cubs to an 11-7 win over the same Reds. It was both his first career five-hit and three-homer game. He set a new franchise record with 16 total bases and was only the second player in Cubs history to have five extra-base hits, after George Gore in 1885. On August 18th, he went 5-for-5 with 2 homers, a double and 5 RBIs in a 9-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. He was named the National League Player of the Month for August after hitting .383 with 7 doubles, 10 homers, 29 runs and 22 RBIs in the month. he ended the year at .292 with 35 doubles, 39 homers and 102 RBIs, also leading the NL in runs scored with 121. He cut down significantly on his strikeouts, lowering their total to 154 even though he had more at-bats. He continued to hit well in the postseason, batting. 375 with 3 extra-base hits in the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, then .304 with 3 doubles against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. Finally, in the 2016 World Series, he had 7 hits including 2 homers, scored 6 runs and drew 5 walks as the Cubs finally won the big prize for the first time since 1908. He was rewarded for his outstanding season by winning the Hank Aaron Award as the league's best overall hitter and then winning the MVP Award in a runaway vote. Ironically, that last award came in spite of the fact he had been beaten by Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies for both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award. It was not an unprecedented situation, as Joey Votto had won the NL MVP Award in 2010 under similar circumstances.

Before the 2017 season, he was rewarded with a salary raise, earning $1.05 million. It was the highest salary ever for a player with two years of experience, just above what Mike Trout had earned at a similar point in his career. he started the year well, as after 73 games, while his batting average was only .259, he was leading the National League with 53 walks and had 16 homers and 32 RBIs while having scored 49 runs. On June 28th, however, he sprained his ankle while catching a ball in foul territory in the 5th inning of a game against the Washington Nationals and had to be escorted off the field. He played 151 games that season, hitting 29 homers and driving in 73 runs while scoring 111. Contrary to the previous year, he did not collect any significant hardware after the season, and even missed going to the All-Star Game as the Cubs were doing poorly at mid-season and manager Joe Maddon invited only one of his players to be on the team - closer Wade Davis, who was not even a member of the previous year's championship squad. The Cubs played much better in the second half, winning the division, and Bryant went 4 for 20 with a pair of doubles and 3 runs as the Cubs eliminated the Washington Nationals in the Division Series. In the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, however, like most of his teammates, his bat was stymied by the Dodgers' pitching as he went 4 for 20, the only extra-base hit being a solo homer off Clayton Kershaw that accounted for the Cubs' lone run in an 11-1 loss in Game 5 on October 19th.

On January 12, 2018 he set a record for a player eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, agreeing to a $10.85 million contract. On April 22nd, he was hit in the head by a 96 mph fastball thrown by German Marquez of the Colorado Rockies and had to leave the game although he appeared to escape what could have been a serious injury. He missed four games before returning on April 28th. On May 9th, he hit the 100th homer of his career in a 13-4 win over the Miami Marlins. It came in the 1st inning off Wei-Yin Chen, on the third anniversary of his first homer, and made him the fastest Cubs player to reach the mark, as he had needed 487 games, 13 fewer than Hall of Famer Ernie Banks who had done so in an even 500 games. On June 26th, he was placed on the disabled list for the first time of his career, with inflammation in his left shoulder. The move was retroactive to June 23rd. He was reactivated in early July, but two weeks later, returned to the DL with the shoulder acting up again, and he did not return until September 1st. Overall, he played 102 games, hitting .272 with 13 homers and 52 RBIs in what was a very disappointing season. He was back healthy in 2019 and on May 17th, he had the second three-homer game of his career in a 14-6 win over the Washington Nationals. He hit the three long balls in consecutive innings - the 7th, 8th and 9th - also driving in 5 runs to break the game open. He is just the 12th player to pull off the rare feat, and the second to do so in those particular innings (J.D. Martinez had been the first, in his four-homer game in 2017).

Bryant's father, Mike Bryant, played in the Boston Red Sox chain in 1980-1981. After the 2016 season, Kris married his girlfriend, Jessica Delp.

Notable Achievements[edit]

NL Rookie of the Year
2014 2015 2016
Jacob deGrom Kris Bryant Corey Seager
2015 2016 2017
Bryce Harper Kris Bryant Giancarlo Stanton

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mark Bowman: "Why I put Bryant 1st on my ballot:'s Braves beat reporter explains his ballot",, November 17, 2017. [1]
  • J.J. Cooper: "2014 Minor League Player Of The Year: Kris Bryant", Baseball America, September 9, 2014. [2]
  • Carrie Muskat: "Bryant wins NL MVP year after winning ROY", November 17, 2016. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Kris Bryant's fate has Scott Boras, Cubs fans atwitter", USA Today Sports, March 17, 2015. [4]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Kris Bryant’s wonderful life: World Series champion starting his career at the top", USA Today Sports, February 16, 2017. [5]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Cubs' Kris Bryant near unanimous National League MVP", USA Today Sports, November 17, 2016. [6]
  • Phil Rogers: "No need to wait: Cubs have a spot for Bryant: Goal of contending now would be served by moving top prospect to Majors",, December 23, 2014. [7]
  • Andrew Simon: "Batting Bryant leadoff makes sense for Cubs: Slugger has skills that would prove beneficial from top of lineup",, January 18, 2018. [8]

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