When will his major league debut occur?
“I guess it’s bittersweet,” Bryant said of being in town but not playing. “It’s always been my dream to play in the big leagues. I sure hope that day comes some time. Right now I’m just enjoying my time with my teammates. Today is one of the few times I can be a fan in this game. I’m going to enjoy it.”
Bryant also is enjoying all the awards and accolades he keeps getting. The Cubs brought him to town to honor him as their Minor League Player of the Year after he hit .325 with 43 home runs and 110 RBIs split between Double-A and Triple-A. He got on-base a nifty 44 percent of the time. Media outlets including ESPN.com and Baseball America also dubbed him player of the year, this after he won best collegian in 2013 to go along with Arizona Fall League MVP. The hits keep coming for the 22-year-old slugger.
“With the awards I kind of just throw them in my room,” Bryant said nonchalantly. “They’re not something I can hold onto. They’re just a piece of hardware.”
Inevitably, the question of where he’ll start next season came up. From a pure baseball perspective, it remains an absurd thought that others who are less accomplished and/or less mature are in the majors ahead of Bryant. Cubs brass admit he’s as advanced a prospect as any they’ve seen and that he already can make his own adjustments probably better than a hitting coach can show him.
“Numbers across the board start to give you some validation on how consistent [prospects] are,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “But you always have to wait for them to get to the big leagues and see what they end up panning out to be.
“If they are used as indicators to show us if they have a chance at success, then he’s showing us some pretty good indications that he might have a chance at success at the big league level.”
As has been well documented, even if he’s ready next spring the business side of baseball might keep Bryant in the minors just a little bit longer. He can live with that. In fact, he doesn’t want to think about it.
“I definitely ignore it,” Bryant said. “I hate distractions. That’s one of the biggest distractions in this game.
“I’ve always said it’s my job to make it hard on them. I think I’ve done that this year. It’s all I’m going to do for the rest of my career.”
It’s that singular focus that makes Bryant special.
He’s aware of the attention he’s getting from fans and media, and he’s cognizant of the clamoring from people that want to see him playing at Wrigley Field sooner than later.
It doesn’t matter. His attention is on playing baseball. That’s it.
“I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt that,” he said. “It’s all part of the game. Cubs fans are the best fans in baseball.”
So what’s next for Bryant?
After a trip to Disney World, he’ll start the move toward working on his game for next season. The Cubs have told him he’s their third baseman, but he’ll get a taste of the outfield in spring training, as well. Like 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber’s commitment to playing catcher, Bryant wants to stick at third. He’s made that abundantly clear to all that will listen.
“Third base is an extremely hard position,” Bryant said. “I know I can always get better over there.”
Then he’ll go to work in the cage. His dad, Mike, is a former pro player who has nurtured Kris every step of the way. His final offseason before turning him over to the Cubs will be a big one.
“We’re going to micromanage his at-bats (in the minors),” the elder Bryant said. “We’re going to figure out what the pitchers are doing to get him out. We’ll formulate his approach based on that.
“They want to get ahead and expand. We’re going to attack that.”
The Bryants always are looking ahead. It’s why they aren’t showing any outward disappointment over Kris not getting called up this year. That doesn’t mean Kris is not watching his former teammates Javier Baez and Jorge Soler and hoping to join them.
“I’m happy for them, but I want to be in their shoes some day and I hope that day comes soon,” Kris Bryant said. “But we’re all in this together. It’s been fun watching them.
“It gives me that extra drive to go into the offseason and work really hard so I can join them next year.”
There’s little doubt Bryant will join whoever is playing at Wrigley Field sometime in 2015, even if it’s not on opening day.
In baseball, there are few things that are inevitable; the game will humble the best of players and take fans and their favorite teams on some twists and turns in a season.
But if there is one sure thing about the Cubs’ rebuilding phase, it’s that Bryant will see Wrigley Field in a uniform next time he’s here during the season. He and his family must know that, as well. When it comes down to just a matter of time, how frustrating can it really be?
Even seeing Baez struggle early this season after he was sent down in the spring doesn’t faze Bryant.
“No matter what level I’m, at I’m always going to play as hard as I can so that’s never going to be a problem for me,” Bryant said. “I could see how that could be upsetting given that [Baez] had a really good spring. He turned it around, and he was up here eventually. That’s really what matters.”
Bryant’s time is coming. And he knows it.