Prospect Bryant impresses Veras during rehab
ST. LOUIS -- Veteran reliever Jose Veras sounded like a Cubs fan when asked about top prospect Kris Bryant.
"He's unbelievable," Veras said Wednesday. "To see him play, to see [Jorge] Soler play, [Stephen] Bruno play. They're unbelievable players. They know how to play the game."
Veras watched the youngsters first-hand during a rehab assignment with Double-A Tennessee, which ended Tuesday night. He saw Bryant at his best. The third baseman, batting .324, was named the Southern League Hitter of the Week on Monday and leads the league in home runs (11) and RBIs (33). He belted No. 11 on Tuesday.
"He hit a homer and center field was 400 feet away and the wall was 40 feet high, and he hit it over that thing like nothing," Veras said. "It's unbelievable the power that he has."
The Cubs' front office has told prospects that they'll be promoted if they dominate at their current level. Bryant is definitely dominating.
"He's having a great year, and we have a number of guys on that team playing well," general manager Jed Hoyer said of Bryant, who was the team's No. 1 pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft. "[Promoting him] is not something we've talked about.
"I think it's important to know a ballpark you're going to, who your teammates are. He's a guy we drafted [last June] and went to [short-season] Boise, then [Class A Advanced] Daytona, then [the Arizona Fall League], then Tennessee. It's probably important to have a few ups and downs with the club before we have that discussion."
Bryant is ranked No. 2 on MLB.com's list of top Cubs prospects. Javier Baez, listed at No. 1, isn't having as much success at Triple-A Iowa and was batting .147 in 27 games with three homers and 11 RBIs. The shortstop batted .264 in the spring with five home runs.
"There probably is emotionally a little bit of a let down after you audition, if you will, in Spring Training, and you have the adrenaline, and then go down [to the Minors]," Hoyer said. "I think we're past that point. He's in a big slump and he'll have to figure his way out of it. He'll be stronger for having gone through this. ... Now it's a matter of Javy figuring out what he needs to do to get through this."
Bryant knows himself well, but Hoyer said the youngster still needs some guidance.
"He needs coaching besides himself," Hoyer said. "But knowing your own swing and knowing what makes you good is a big part of making you a good hitter."
The Cubs have been strugging offensively. Did Veras try to talk them into letting him bring Bryant up to the big leagues?
"I can't do that," Veras said, laughing. "The only thing I did was try to worry about was being healthy and throwing strikes. Everybody loved him, he's an unbelievable teammate. He's humble, he's a leader on the team. He's an unbelievable player."