published Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Smokies' Kris Bryant credits college for his stellar season

  • photo
    Kris Bryant, infielder for the Tennessee Smokies, reacts after hitting a home run on Monday during the Southern League Home Run Derby at Engel Stadium. Bryant won every round of the derby.
    Photo by Shawn Paik /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

It's been a nice year for Tennessee Smokies third baseman Kris Bryant.

Bryant was selected last June by the Chicago Cubs out of the University of San Diego as the No. 2 pick in the big-league draft. He received a $6.71 million signing bonus, an organizational record, and hit .333 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 16 games with Daytona in the high Single-A Florida State League.

This season, the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder from Las Vegas has shredded the Double-A Southern League, hitting .355 with 22 homers and 58 RBIs in 68 games. Bryant won the home run derby Monday night at Engel Stadium and was a guest Tuesday afternoon on "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 The Zone.

Q: They say the toughest jump in the developmental ladder is to Double-A, so how have you made the adjustment so smoothly?

A: "I would say going to college definitely prepares you for professional baseball. You're facing guys on Friday nights who have a chance to go pretty far in this game, and I definitely attribute this year to going to college and to going to the Arizona Fall League last fall. There are some guys who have some big-league time in that league, and a lot of them are Double-A and Triple-A pitchers."

Q: When teams like the Cubs are under .500, their fans are hoping for prospects to get called up. How are you doing as far as playing the patience game?

A: "I'm doing great because I don't really look into the future at all. I've had fun this season, and if I play all season here, I'll play as hard as I can for the Smokies and help them win as many games as possible. If they want me to go elsewhere, I'll definitely be ready for that, too."

Q: Who was your favorite player growing up?

A: "I had a couple, actually. I liked to watch Manny Ramirez hit, and it's funny he's with the Cubs now. I'll probably get a chance to talk with him about hitting, but Barry Bonds was actually my favorite. I grew up watching him hit a lot of homers, and homers are a big part of this game. It's something I wanted to do growing up."

Q: Are you glad you never again have to hit in a park like Engel Stadium, which has a distance of 471 feet to straightaway center?

A: "They teach you to stay through the middle and hit the ball up the middle, but on that field you don't want to do that. There was no chance I could get it over that fence, but that was a good experience getting to be on a field with that much history."

Q: What do you need to work on most before taking that next step up?

A: "Just being more consistent getting my pitch to hit and not chasing pitches that are out of the zone. I definitely need to work on my defense. I've come a long way, but I still have a long way to go before perfecting third base."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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