During the Southern League Double-A Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Chattanooga, Tenn., Bryant showed again why he is such a highly rated prospect.
Bryant won the Home Run Derby by hitting four home runs in the final round. His opponent, Jon Griffin of the Arizona Diamondbacks Mobile club, hit three homers before reaching his five-out limit. Bryant managed his four home runs through only two outs.
The Home Run Derby gave great insight into the power, bat control and hand-eye coordination of Bryant. For me, those three components form the building blocks for his hitting tools.
On the first pitch in the first round of the Derby, pitcher Razor Shines threw a pitch over the plate. With lightning-quick hands, Bryant drove the ball to the deepest part of historic Engel Stadium, where the movie "42" was filmed. His monster shot to dead center fell at the base of an incline, more than 400 feet from home plate. It didn't clear the wall that exceeds 20 feet at that spot. Instead of repeating that stroke, Bryant was patient enough to take inside pitches far over the auxiliary fence built in front of the left-field wall and the white painted wall several feet further back.
Bryant bounced balls off the street behind the left-field wall. From my vantage point behind home plate I could see the balls bounce high in the air off the street. It was an amazing display of power. Bryant hit 16 home runs over the three rounds.
Much of the talk in the press box at the actual All-Star Game centered upon Bryant's future. Would he be promoted to Triple-A? If not soon, when? And can he go directly to the parent Cubs directly from Double-A?
Every club faces the ultimate dilemma regarding prospect promotions. When is the right time to promote a prospect between classifications? When is the right time to call the prospect to the big leagues? Clubs have different standards. The usual response relates to the progress of the player's individual development. If his development is "progressing," he will move to the next Minor League level. If his development is complete, he will be called to the Majors -- provided of course a spot is available and he can contribute. There are no guarantees.
In Bryant's case, he had compiled awesome statistics at Tennessee in 297 plate appearances covering 68 games. At the time of his promotion to Iowa, he was leading the league in seven categories: batting average (.355), home runs (22), RBIs (58), hits (88), on base percentage (.458), slugging (.702) and extra-base hits (20, not counting his 22 home runs.)
Bryant's offensive performance at Tennessee was virtually flawless. One might expect a heavy strikeout total from a power hitter like Bryant. He did compile his share of strikeouts, going down 77 times, but he walked 43 times as well. Those are very decent numbers relative to his amazing productivity.
The biggest question regarding Bryant's prospect movement centers on his ability to play quality defense at third base. And for me, I feel he is improving.
I saw Bryant extensively in the 2013 Arizona Fall League. His only flaw at that time was a lack of confidence on defense. He just didn't bring the same type of skill and refinement to his position at third as he had in the batter's box. However, Bryant's getting more secure. That said, he still had 14 errors at Tennessee, which is too many.
Bryant has the offensive ability to change games and become an elite player at the highest level of the game. For me, he has upside remaining in all phases of his game. For opposing pitchers that thought has to be pretty frightening.