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Bryant's big year capped with AFL MVP Award

Cubs prospect led Fall League in homers, runs, slugging, extra-base hits

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kris Bryant's collection of awards and accomplishments this year is just as prodigious as his power. Which is saying a lot, considering that scouts consider him the best college power hitter to come along in a decade or two.

The Cubs third baseman added to his trophy case Saturday when he was named the Arizona Fall League's 2013 Joe Black MVP Award winner before his Mesa Solar Sox faced the Surprise Saguaros for the league title. He went 0-for-4 in a 2-0 loss that meant he won only two championships this year.

"It has been an incredible year for me," Bryant said. "It didn't end the way I wanted, but I'm very excited about the future. I'm thankful the Cubs gave me the chance to come out here and work on my game."

Bryant batted .364/.457/.727 in 20 games for the Solar Sox, reaching base at least once in every contest. He led the AFL in slugging, runs (22), homers (six), extra-base hits (15) and total bases (56).

"I didn't really know what to expect coming into Arizona after playing 30-something professional games," Bryant said. "Playing against guys who are great pitchers day in and day out really helped."

Bryant's AFL experience -- which also included a lot of work on his defense at the hot corner -- will expedite his development. It's not out of the question that he could reach Wrigley Field before the end of 2014. If he hits like he did throughout 2013, the Cubs won't be able to hold him back.

In the spring, Bryant topped NCAA Division I with 31 homers, more than 223 of the 296 teams hit at that level and the most since college baseball toned down its bats three years ago. He also paced D-I in runs (80), walks (66), total bases (187) and slugging (.820). He helped San Diego win the West Coast Conference tournament championship, set a Toreros record with 54 career homers and won USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award and Baseball America's College Player of the Year Award.

He was just getting started. After Bryant went No. 2 overall in the First-Year Player Draft, he signed for $6,708,400. His bonus was the largest ever for a Cub, the most anyone has received since new rules came into play in 2012 and the biggest up-front bonus for any position player in Draft history.

Bryant went 1-for-11 in his first three pro games but wound up hitting .336/.390/.688 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 36 regular-season games between three levels. He led the Daytona Cubs to the High Class A Florida State League title by batting .350 with four RBIs in six playoff contests, then headed to Arizona and continued to rake.

Bryant smiled when asked if he could have imagined a better year.

"I'm such a perfectionist, so everything can always go better," he said. "But this year has been one of the best years of my life. When I think about it in the offseason, I'll think of the great times I had in college, my first taste of pro ball and the Fall League, all the great players. It has been an incredible year."

Jim Callis is a reporter for and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.
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