Cubs' Bryant named first AFL Co-Player of the Week
No. 2 overall Draft pick tallies two homers and seven RBIs in three games
SCOTTSDALE -- Led by the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, Chicago boasts one of the tallest skylines anywhere.
And it probably won't be long before the noteworthy trend will continue with the addition of the next big thing, Kris Bryant, as the third baseman for the Chicago Cubs. The 6-5, 215-pound Bryant was the Cubs' top pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and the second player chosen overall.
Asked about the main thing that makes him successful, Bryant wasn't boasting when he said, "I've always had that power. I'm blessed with that ability."
Pitchers in the Arizona Fall League have noticed.
Bryant hit a pair of homers, drove in seven runs and batted .500 for the Mesa Solar Sox in his first three games, earning him the Fall League's Co-Player of the Week for the first week, joining Surprise Saguaros outfielder Mitch Haniger of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bryant grew up in Las Vegas and played for the University of San Diego through the 2013 college season, when the Cubs selected him as a junior.
He knows all about the Cubs' World Series drought and the continued frustration among the fans. The team finished in the National League Central Division cellar this year with a 66-96 record, the league's second-worst.
Bryant appreciates the fans' passion and knows they are very knowledgeable. That came across in June, when he went to Chicago to sign his contract, which carried a $6.7 million bonus.
"I was walking along Michigan Avenue and there were some people who already recognized me. It seemed kind of strange, in a good way, though. With fans like that, you want to be part of it,'' Bryant said.
There is pressure that comes with that fame. Bryant knows, too, that fans will expect him to take up residence in "The Friendly Confines" in 2014, as some internet headlines suggest, or as soon as possible thereafter.
"All of us out here in the Fall League are feeling pressure," Bryant said. "It's your goal to get to the big leagues and play there. There are a lot of eyes on you."
Bryant likes the way the Fall League season has started.
"Sometimes the ball seems like a beach ball. Sometimes it seems like a golf ball. It's kind of like a beach ball for me right now," Bryant said.
"There are a lot of great pitchers out here, guys who throw 95 [mph]. I want to see as much of them as I can, get to know as many people as I can, pick the coaches' brains, get to know my teammates and other players. It should be a great experience."
Bryant played for the Arizona Rookie League Cubs, Boise of the short-season Class A Northwest League and Daytona of the Class A Advanced Florida State League. He finished with a .336 average, nine homers and 32 RBIs. After the regular season, he went to the old Cubs' Spring Training complex in nearby Mesa, Ariz., (the new one won't open until next spring) for some instruction, and Bryant said that was beneficial in helping him prepare for the Fall League.
For now, he will remain at third base, but the possibility exists that he could play outfield on occasion (he played 12 games there in college and says he feels comfortable) or maybe even first base. He even is wearing popular former Cubs first baseman Mark Grace's old No. 17.
Playing at third can be difficult for a taller player, but he said he has been playing the position for so long that "it is natural for me now."
"[My defense] is coming along," Bryant said. "I feel like I've gotten a whole lot better. I'm using this to become as complete of a player as I can. Maybe I can make a name for myself."
He already has.
Don Ketchum is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.