First Overall: The Case For Kris Bryant
In the fall and winter, I was fully in support of Clint Frazier as the top player in the 2013 draft class and I still love him as a prospect. As the college season got underway, I was amazed by the strides made by Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray and his 100 MPH fastball. He moved to the top of my personal list. Frazier, Gray, and others, such as Mark Appel and Austin Meadows, can all make a case for being the top prospect this year. I’m sure they are all under consideration by the Astros. That said, if I was making the pick for Houston, I would take San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant at the top or the draft.
While preparing my case, I contacted BLF Scouting Director Kevin Gallo (who, to be fair, has been in Bryant’s corner all along) to get his thoughts on Bryant’s ceiling and floor offensively. On the low end, Kevin has Bryant batting .275 with 30 home runs in the Majors, while he sees a ceiling of .310+ with 40+ home runs.
Bryant’s future defensive position is a point of more contention. He is projected to move off of third by most. While a gold glove at third is not in his future, a move off of the position is not a certainty. If a move becomes necessary, a corner outfield spot seems the most likely destination.
The best case scenario for Bryant is that he becomes a Major League third baseman and puts up MVP type numbers during his prime. If things don’t work out so well, he plays in the outfield or at first and still has enough bat to be an impact Major Leaguer.
If you want more detail on Bryant, check out Kevin’s scouting report.
Bryant has not emerged out of nowhere. He has a strong track record to back up his status as the top prospect for the draft. Coming out of high school, Bryant was seen as a possible first round pick in the 2010 draft. As a college freshman in 2011, he had a line of .365/.482/.599. He followed that up with a line of .366/.483/.671 last year. Coming into his junior season, he was the top rated position player on BLF’s preseason college rankings and appeared on every preseason All-American Team. The monster year Bryant is having is being built upon previous success.
I know, stats don’t matter when evaluating prospects. We are told that constantly and, for the most part I agree with the statement. That said, Bryant gets full credit in the performace department and for whatever weight his stats may carry. If more players hit the way Bryant has this season, the NCAA would have to change their bats again.
Position Player vs Pitcher
It appears to be a 3 man race for the top spot in the draft, with Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray out front and Bryant in 3rd. While a strong case can be made for Appel and Gray, Bryant is at least their equal as a prospect. As a position player, Bryant is the safer bet. The injury risk for pitchers is simply much greater than that of position players. Largely due to that fact, the success rate of position players is greater than that of pitchers. If you would like to know more on this, start with the work of Victor Wang.
Kris Bryant is one of the most Major League ready hitters in the draft class. Barring the unforeseen, Bryant should be one of the first bats from the 2013 draft class to reach the Majors. He could be a contributor to a big league lineup in 2015.
Minute Maid Park could be one last factor in Bryant’s favor. Houston’s home park is a nice place for righthanded power hitters. According to FanGraphs, Minute Maid had a park factor of 104 for righthanded home runs from 2009-2011. Picturing Bryant and his near 80 power in the middle of future lineups has to be very tempting for Houston’s front office.
The closer the draft gets and the more home runs he hits, the more Kris Bryant looks like the top prospect for the 2013 draft. With a high ceiling and a high floor, he is simply the best bet to become an impact player at the next level. For me, Bryant is number one and I become more convinced of that by the day.