Bryant setting sights on big leagues in 2015
Cubs' top prospect honored for prolific Minor League campaign
SAN DIEGO -- Kris Bryant picked up what he thinks was his final award for the 2014 season on Monday. It's time to move on, he said, and hopefully that means a spot in the Cubs' 2015 Opening Day lineup.
Bryant was among those honored at a luncheon for top Minor League players, scouts and team personnel from 2014. The Cubs' top prospect led the Minors with 43 combined home runs between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa this past season, batting .325 with 110 RBIs.
"This is perfect -- I can put last season in the past and look forward to the future," Bryant said Monday prior to the luncheon. "It was a good season and a lot to build off of. I'm pretty confident. But it's in the past now, and I have to get ready for next year."
Next year could include a spot on the big league roster. The Cubs do have Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt as third-base options, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Bryant, 22, will be a big part of next year's team. The third baseman knows he'll have to show up in Spring Training and earn the job.
"That's definitely been a goal of mine, to play Major League baseball," Bryant said. "To hear that coming from [Epstein] is definitely an honor and something I've been working on my whole life. It doesn't stop here. I don't want to just play in the big leagues -- I want to excel and be the best I can be. I'm looking forward to this season more than any season in the past."
Bryant built an indoor batting cage at his Las Vegas home, and he started hitting about a week ago. His father has been throwing batting practice, but Bryant also acquired a pitching machine.
"He doesn't throw hard enough to simulate a 95-mph fastball," Bryant said of his dad.
After spending half of the 2014 season at Iowa, Bryant knows he's one step away from the big leagues.
"One more step and I'm there," he said. "[I'm going to] keep working hard and have a level head and stay humble -- that's a big part of what's gotten me this far. That can't change."
Bryant received his award at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, about a 10-minute walk from the Winter Meetings headquarters. He planned on meeting briefly with his agent, Scott Boras, before hopefully squeezing in some hitting at the University of San Diego, where he starred before being selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
While Bryant has tried to keep a low-key profile this offseason -- attending concerts, playing golf and going to Disneyland -- he also made headlines for reaching out to a fan who was going to spend $850 on one of his bats on eBay. Bryant thought the price was outrageous, and he offered to send the fan a bat for free.
"I notice a lot of guys on Twitter," Bryant said. "I've seen him tweet about me during my college days. He's a genuine fan. [The story] definitely did get blown out of proportion."
Other fans have tried to get a free Bryant bat from him as well.
"I get a couple [requests] a day," Bryant said. "I guess that comes with the territory, just being a professional athlete. I think it's cool that people ask for your stuff. I wish I could give everybody something. I appreciate all the support. It's very humbling."