With only history to go on, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum believes draft pick Kris Bryant could be on a fast track to the major leagues.
"I was looking for a flight manifest to see if I could get him in the lineup today," Sveum joked the morning after the Cubs selected the third baseman second overall. "It's hard to tell but the history of guys like that it doesn't take that long. From the (Barry) Bondses to the (Troy) Tulowitzkis to all these guys that were the best hitters in the draft, it didn't take all that long. But obviously he's kind of used to a wood bat now because of the new bats that they're using. You never know but just watching him, pretty good mechanics that play well in the big leagues. It's nice to have a guy that out-homered 200 major-college teams."
Bryant hit 31 home runs for San Diego this season, 10 more than the next hitter in all of college baseball. And when Sveum mentions "new bats" he's referring to the move to Batted Ball Coefficient Of Restitution OR BBCOR in 2011. Those bats react more similar to wood bats than the old aluminum ones. It gives teams a better evaluation.
"It makes the scouting process a little more thorough because of the BBCOR bats," scouting director Jason McLeod said Thursday night after the pick. "A few years back you could roll into some of these college campuses and guys that should be bombing were playing home run derby in batting practice. From the evaluative stand point, it really leveled the playing field."
And it made the pick of Bryant an easier one for the Cubs. All agree that when a player hits 10 more home runs than anyone else at any level, it stands out.
"You just don't see it happen," Sveum said. "Those bats have brought back the ability to evaluate. You hit 31, some people say that's like 45 with the old bats."
Cubs hitting coach James Rowson added: "I think with the success he's had and where he was taken, pretty much just let him do what he does and see how it translates into professional baseball."
In other words this is no project. He's ready made -- at least if, and until, he struggles.
"Watching video of him, I've loved his strength and mechanics, his ability to hit the ball out of center field and right center field is obviously a plus," Sveum stated.
As for his position in the majors, it sounds like it will depend more on the team's needs than his limitations. Sveum says Bryant has the foot speed to be an outfielder and the athleticism to play third. For now, he's a third baseman.
"All that stuff takes care of itself," Sveum said. "Right now, just watching him I don't see any problems at third base."
All that losing last season finally had meaning as the Cubs hope they may have solved their problem at the hot corner, one they've had since Aramis Ramirez left town.
"We got the best hitter in the draft," Sveum continued. "An athlete, 6-5, great body, can run and throw. And obviously we know about his power.
"Whenever you get the best hitter in the draft, knock on wood, they've hit in the big leagues. We got the best (position) player in the draft."