Bryant moves up in prospect rankings

MILWAUKEE -- Chicago Cubs Double-A third baseman Kris Bryant has moved up to No. 8 overall in ESPN.com's new prospect rankings from Keith Law released on Friday while Triple-A shortstop Javier Baez checks in at No. 9.

Bryant, 22, was No. 15 in Law's preseason ranking but he has torn up Southern League pitching to the tune of .347/.451/.674 slash line in 52 games. He has 16 home runs and 45 RBIs to go along with a 1.125 OPS. His 45th RBI came on his latest home run on Thursday night against Huntsville, giving him the lead in all three Triple Crown categories.

"He's going to be a cornerstone," Bryant's Double-A manager Buddy Bailey said. "When we talk about power, it's just raw. He hits the ball out to right and right-center as if he's a left-handed pull hitter."

Bryant's prowess prompted his team, the Tennessee Smokies, to enact a Twitter campaign dubbed "Kris Bryant Facts," encouraging fans to interact.

Even teammates got involved.

Triple-A infielder/outfielder Logan Watkins responded as well.

Bryant is 6-foot- with blue eyes and is opening many others around baseball with his talent at the plate. Law references his strikeout percentage (27 percent) as the one downer but it's not that far off high school (23 percent), college (24 percent), last year in the minors (24 percent) or in the Arizona Fall League (26 percent).

"Off the field he's even better," Bailey said. "Guys want to hang around him not because he's really good, he's just one of these guys that gets along with everyone. Every intangible you can think of as a ballplayer, Kris Bryant brings to the table."

Meanwhile, Baez dropped two spots from his preseason ranking (7) after a dismal April at Triple-A Iowa. He's picked up the in May getting hits in 12 of his last 14 games but his strikeout to walk ratio (5.00) remains an issue.

For now, it's Bryant who gets top billing among Cubs prospects as his two months in Double-A have been nothing short of spectacular. Outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora got honorable mentions in Law's list but didn't crack the top 25.