Editor’s note: The sooner the Chicago Cubs hire a new manager the sooner he can get a look at the team’s top prospects. That’s what Jesse Rogers is doing this week as he takes in a few days of Arizona Fall League action, starting off with an interview with Chicago’s first-round draft pick Kris Bryant.
MESA, Ariz. -- Last year’s No. 2 overall pick in the draft, Kris Bryant, is off to a hot start having won player of the week honors in the first week of the fall season while narrowly missing the honor in Week 2.
After a 1-for-2 day with two walks and two runs scored in a 9-6 Mesa win over Surprise on Monday, Bryant, one of the Cubs’ top prospects, is hitting .429 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. The latter two stats lead all hitters in the league.
What was the transition like from college to the pros? Has it been a whirlwind meeting so many new people?
Kris Bryant: Everybody has been so great. I didn’t know if they would look at me different being the No. 2 pick. Everybody welcomed me with open arms. Really cool people here.
You’re off to such a hot start here and also hit well for the Cubs after you were drafted. Are you prepared for some struggles at some point?
KB: Summer ball my freshman year I went to the Cape [Cod league] and didn’t do well at all. That was good for me to go through. I know I’m going to go through struggles, and I’ll think back to that time at the Cape Cod League or my first day in Boise this year.
This game is built around failure, which makes it fun. Success tastes so much better after failure.
Anthony Rizzo likes to say “see the ball, hit the ball” when he talks hitting. Is it that simple for guys that have the talent?
KB: When you’re up in the box you want to keep it as simple as possible, so “see the ball, hit the ball” is a very good thought. I think some different things, like keep my hands above the ball or try to hit the ball right back up the middle. The more good things you do the better the results will be.
What has been the key to your success to this point?
KB: My family has always been there by my side guiding me the right way. College is a really good experience. I think you should have to go to college. Kind of like the NBA or football; you can’t go right to it. It makes you grow up and do things on your own. If you go from high school to this it would be a wake-up call. College taught me how to deal with a lot of things, like the fans and the media and how to act.
Is there anyone you emulate as a hitter?
KB: Since I widened my stance out in college I never really emulated anyone, but I guess as far as who I looked like, maybe Evan Longoria. Other people say Troy Glaus. I guess any third baseman that’s big. I’ve heard Mark McGwire. [Laughs] I don’t think so.
As the No. 2 pick in the draft, you signed for a lot of money. What was that like getting your first check as a professional?
KB: I got myself a car. That’s what everyone does, I guess. It’s cool to get yourself something after 18 years of really hard work. And now my parents don’t have to worry about me, so that’s good, too. My schooling at USD [University of San Diego] really helped in terms of handling money and all that stuff.
Everyone wants to know two things: When you’ll be playing at Wrigley Field? And at what position? Let’s start with second question. Are you too big for third base?
KB: I don’t think so. I’m a pretty athletic big guy. I’ve been playing third base for a while. It’s normal for me. I’m just taking as many ground balls as I can. If they move me off I’ll play my best wherever they put me. Right now I like third base.
I heard they were going to put me in the outfield, but it hasn’t happened yet. I played it a little at school.
And as for making it to the majors?
KB: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it, but it’s easy for me to stay in the moment. I learned that in college. Before every game we had a team brief session and it would just be about staying in the moment. Forget about school, money or problems off the field. I’ve continued those ways and that’s helped me.
So where do you think you’ll start next season?
KB: High-A or Double-A? I guess it just depends on how I do out here and in spring. There’s some good third basemen, I’m new to this whole process. I still consider myself very much a rookie. I’ll go where they tell me.
How much of the chatter do you hear in regards to yourself and some of your teammates, even here in Arizona, being the players that will lead the Cubs to some better days?
KB: I don’t hear much. I just got Twitter after the draft. They [fans] tell me nothing but great things, so that’s cool. You want fans that will be there no matter what you do. We realize there are good people coming up and not just the ones here. There are some good players that have chances to be stars. The future has some bright things coming.