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 email@example.com or 423-757-6524.