- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here's a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' first-round selection, No. 2 overall, in the Major League Baseball amateur draft Thursday night:
The pick: Kris Bryant, third base, University of San Diego
His stats: Bryant led all college players in 2013 with 31 home runs, 10 more than the next player. He also hit .329 with a .493 on-base percentage. He's a finalist for the Golden Spikes award given out to the top amateur baseball player.
His background: Bryant, 21, grew up in Las Vegas. The Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the 18th round in 2010 but Bryant chose to go to college, where he's played the past three seasons. His dad, Mike, was Bryant's coach for much of his life after being a minor league player in the Boston Red Sox organization. Bryant, whose family on his mother's side has Chicago roots, doesn't know much about the Cubs. "I know they haven't won a World Series in a while. Hopefully I can do all that I can to help the Cubs win one. That's about the extent of what I know. It's a great baseball city," he said.
ESPN draft guru Keith Law's take: Bryant's kind of right-handed power is very hard to find, and even if he ends up in right field, he's athletic enough to be good there. He sets up with a very wide base and has no stride, just a toe-tap for timing. It's a quiet swing overall, with excellent hip rotation for power, but his bat speed is just average or a tick better and I worry about his contact rates when he's consistently facing guys throwing 90-plus mph in pro ball. He can murder a good fastball but I'm not sure how he'll react to better off-speed stuff in the pros.
The decision: With Mark Appel off the board, having gone No. 1 to the Houston Astros, the Cubs had a chance to take another elite pitching prospect in Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray. "We felt the best player for the Cubs long term looking at those two players was Bryant," said Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod. The Colorado Rockies took Gray with the next selection at No. 3.
Cubs' view: "We think he has the attributes of a player that can fit in the middle of a major league lineup for many years with his athleticism and overall hitting ability to go along with his obvious power that plays to any field in any park," McLeod said.
What it means: With third base still a thin position at the major league level -- especially in terms of power -- Bryant could be the answer to the Cubs' woes at the hot corner. Some have compared him to Mike Schmidt. That's lofty praise, but even if he can produce a fraction of what Schmidt did, the Cubs could have their answer at third. He could also end up in the outfield, so defensively it's unclear what level he'll reach.
Bryant expects to play third base with the Cubs.
"I think they want me at third base, and that's where I want to play," Bryant told MLB Network on Thursday. "I've been doing it my whole life. You know it's more of a challenge for me and I've always been up for a challenge so I'm looking forward to it."
McLeod didn't rule out a move to the outfield down the road but said Bryant will be at third base for now.
"We do think in the immediate future he's going to play third base for quite a while, and if there is a time down the road that he continues to grow and continue to get stronger and we feel a move may be necessary, than we'll deal with it then," McLeod said. "You're going to see third base next to Kris Bryant's name in the near future."
If there is a no-doubter at the plate in the draft, it's Bryant. As for when he would be ready to play in the majors, Bryant said Thursday afternoon in a radio interview, "Watching big league games, I feel like I could hit big league pitching now."