MESA, Ariz. -- Baseball's top prospect, Kris Bryant, sat down for a question-and-answer session as he and the Chicago Cubs get ready for Cactus League games to start this week:
Jesse Rogers: I'm going to give you a break and not ask you about making the team out of camp. Instead I'll ask an equally awkward question. Kyle Hendricks recently told me you could be the "best player in baseball, hands down." That's an exact quote. Your response?
Kris Bryant: That's, well, incredible to hear from a teammate. Obviously he's a good player himself and I enjoyed playing behind him. Just to hear that kind of praise from him is an honor.
I mean this is a pretty quiet guy, a man of few words, and he's well-educated, from Dartmouth, so maybe he knows what he's saying.
[laughing] He's probably smarter than me, though University of San Diego is pretty good but, man, Dartmouth.
Rogers: Does it make you think, "Hey, slow down a little?"
Bryant: Yeah, but it's the nature of playing this game. I did have a good season and I was talking to some buddies this offseason about the hype and they were like, "That's your fault, you brought that on yourself." I enjoy it. I enjoy my teammates, but I have equal praise for them. They've taken me under their wing and treated me amazing. I feel so comfortable here and I couldn't be more happy where I am.
Rogers: It's funny you bring that up about your friends because I was going to ask you how tiresome the questions are about you making the team, but then I figured your smile tells the story. It beats the alternative. We could be asking "What happened to Bryant last year?" or "Is he ever going to make it?"
Bryant: I agree. I'm doing something right and I'm going to continue to do what I've done to get to this point. Hopefully I have a great season, but you can't see the future. You just have to try and get better. I remember coming into spring training last year and I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know where I was going to play -- Daytona, Tennessee or where. I was just taking everything in stride and focusing on the day to day. I got my feet wet in big league spring training, then got sent back to the minor league side. I did absolutely terrible in minor league camp. I probably hit .120, then I go out there and have a great year. You just never know what to expect. You have to take things with a grain of salt and play as hard as you can.
Rogers: Do you think you struggled in minor league camp because of a little bit of a letdown, little adrenaline drop or something?
Bryant: I can't blame it on that, but sure you go from 30,000 fans to 10. Not 10,000 but 10. Count it on two hands.
Rogers: The reason I asked that is because guys like Hendricks or Javier Baez were on the cusp last year, and when they went down to Triple-A they struggled. Hendricks admitted it was on his mind. But he also said he didn't think that would happen to you.
Bryant: Yeah, I don't approach the game that way. If there is an umpire and some fans in the stands, I turn on the switch and I'm ready to go. I don't care if it's Wiffle Ball and my dad is umpiring. I'm a competitor and I want to win in everything I do. That brings out the best. If I were to struggle, it won't be because of that. I'll just have to figure it out.
Rogers: OK, with games finally starting this week are you excited to put a hurting on some balls? And I say that because I know you are a baseball rat and you've been away from competitive baseball for a while since the minors season ends early.
Bryant: Sept. 1 was the last game. Batting practice got the feeling back here, but nothing beats hitting the ball on the fat part of the bat with people watching and cheering you. It's very exciting, so yeah, getting that feeling back on the field and trying to win every spring training game is our goal.
Rogers: And seeing what [Cubs manager Joe] Maddon is like in-game? He has this larger-than-life reputation.
Bryant: Yeah, absolutely. He's instilling the winning way early in us. He's made it clear he wants to win every spring training game. That's really cool. For me, I'm a competitor. I like it. I'm going to run just as hard down the line and let them know I'm here to play.
Rogers: You mentioned hitting the ball on the fat part of the bat. I was looking up some numbers and the hard hit average last year when a batter goes up the plate is .166. So 16.6 percent of the time hitters are making really good contact. It's hard, isn't it?
Bryant: This game is so tough. When you're struggling, that's normal. You can't be killing it every time. And these pitchers are crazy. With the pitches they throw now, sometimes I've wondered how I hit them or my teammates hit them. It's just that good. But the times that you do -- the 16 percent -- it's why we play this game. It's like golf. You hit a good shot and you come back for another round, but it's hard.
Rogers: Tell me about the pitching machine/cage at your home.
Bryant: It's just like the ones we have here. Last offseason my dad was just lobbing them in there, so it was good to see some curveballs and some velocity earlier so I'm ready for these games.
Rogers: You and Anthony Rizzo seem to be bonding. Is it because you have similar paths as highly touted players and stuff like that?
Bryant: He's been just a good teammate and a good guy. And our interests are very alike and aligned. We like to give back and be nice to the people that got us here, as well as do well on the field. And we're kind of similar players. It's cool to have a guy like that -- one I can kind of cling to and learn how he goes about his ways. He's helped a lot so far.
Rogers: Yeah, I caught a bro-hug between you guys the other day. Was that about anything in particular?
Bryant: Oh, I think that was after the live batting practice I had. He's like, 'You're a stud, dude.' He said something like, 'Whatever you're doing now I want to do, so I'm going to follow you around.' Something like that.
Rogers: Isn't that high praise? I mean it's only BP, but ...
Bryant: Oh for sure. It's definitely weird because he's done it in the big leagues and I haven't, yet he's saying he wants to be like me. It should be the other way around, but it gives me that boost of confidence and I appreciate that.
Rogers: Your dad has been a big part of your baseball life. Any advice he's giving you for this specific season or camp?
Bryant: Yeah, make the decision hard for them. That's always what I'm going to do. I've done a good job of that my whole life, so I don't think it will change.
Rogers: What have you been doing away from the park?
Bryant: I'm rooming with Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach and Stephen Bruno; it's a good group of guys. We're hanging out, goofing around. We went golfing a couple times and we have a putting green in our backyard, so we're out there. We went to Top Golf a couple of times.
Rogers: Where is your defense right now at third base?
Bryant: It's good, but practice is a whole different animal. It might take me a little to get back into it because there is a hitter in the box and you have to react to it. But yeah, it's coming along.