A couple weeks ago, Anthony and I spent an afternoon discussing college baseball statistics and whether anything can be gleaned from them to help an organization make rational decisions about the amateur baseball draft. University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant represented the rat in our maze, the bacterium under our microscope, the object of our scrutiny. I may poach a couple quotes from that conversation for the sake of advancing this draft profile, but we ultimately concluded that college stats do not matter...except when they do.
Kris Bryant stands 6-5 and tips the scales at 215 pounds — a tall and lean home-run-hitting machine who currently mans third base, first base, and occasionally right field for the USD Toreros. For those curious at home, a torero is a bullfighter. Not the cowboy-hat-wearing, hand-in-the-air-until-going-airborne type, but rather the hacking-big-cows-with-a-sword-in-an-arena-in-Spain type. Bryant takes his hacks at baseballs, and his skill at making pitchers weep with one swing has touched historic status during his 2013 junior season.
College stats do not matter, except when they do. Take a gander at the following, lifted from free content courtesy of NCAA.org:
|Runs Per Game (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||1||1.29||Kris Bryant, SDiego||1.29|
|Runs (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||1||80||Kris Bryant, SDiego||80|
|Home Runs Per Game (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||1||0.5||Kris Bryant, SDiego||0.5|
|Home Runs (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||1||31||Kris Bryant, SDiego||31|
|Runs Batted In Per Game (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||34||1|
|Runs Batted In (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||23||62||Colin Moran, UNC||85|
|Slugging Percentage (250 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||1||0.82||Kris Bryant, SDiego||0.82|
|Total Bases (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||1||187||Kris Bryant, SDiego||187|
|On Base Percentage (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||12||0.493||Mike Papi, Va.||0.527|
|Base on Balls Per Game (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||1||1.06||Kris Bryant, SDiego||1.06|
|Base on Balls (150 ranked)||Kris Bryant, San Diego||1||66||Kris Bryant, SDiego||66|
Context makes Bryant's feats even more impressive. Prior to his freshman season, the NCAA switched from traditional aluminum to new composite material bats, with the intention of improving player safety. Bryant ranks just outside of the NCAA's Top 20 all time in home runs per game, and those ahead of him on the list used the rocket-launching aluminum bats. The Boston Herald does a fantastic job of explaining the difference in power numbers that this switch has had on college ball. They say this about Bryant's season:
"Acting on a theory by USD broadcaster Jack Murray, USD statistician Mark Kramer crunched numbers that suggest Bryant would have hit 49 home runs had he been using the old aluminum bats, which used to put a "ping" in college baseball.
That would have been one more than Pete Incaviglia's record of 48 in 75 games in 1985 at Oklahoma State.
Further, the numbers suggest that if Bryant played 75 games, he'd have hit a staggering 68 homers."
"[Kramer] found that the number of home runs per game hit by WCC teams has dropped by an average of 34 percent since the bat change. USD's numbers, however, were up slightly, thanks to Bryant."
Go read the article. Jim Callis at Baseball America agrees that Bryant has a special bat, and even drops an 80 grade on his power tool.
"His combination of bat speed, strength, pitch recognition, discipline and barrelability give him elite power."
--Jim Callis, Baseball America
A recent scouting report by Baseball Prospect Nation expands on Bryant's present and future skills. The important factoid I took from this article is that despite reports of future contact-related issues, all five of Bryant's tools grade average to above-average. Furthermore, he has such a good approach that scouts think he will improve on the skills that currently lag behind his power. One of our own prospect gurus, Anthony Boyer, says this:
"I've watched literally hours of video of his swing, and I've talked with at least a dozen Southern California area scouts, and I can say with relative sureness that he's going to have contact issues, but that they're not severe, and we're still looking at a guy who can hit .270-.290 as a major leaguer."
--Anthony Boyer, The Crawfish Boxes
So Bryant probably will never hit over .300 in the major leagues, but he certainly projects to be better than league average in Batting Average and, given his fearsome power and excellent plate discipline (see above, where he led the NCAA in walks per game), he could post elite On Base Percentage numbers.
The StarTribune reports that Bryant credits the formation of his swing to his father, a 1980 Red Sox draftee, and to Ted Williams, who was pretty okay at hitting a baseball too.
"Citing Ted Williams’ method from his book, The Science of Hitting, Bryant incorporated the upward swing to counter the downward flight of the ball, attempting to achieve a more flush point of contact."
--Parker Hageman, TwinsCentric, StarTribune
In the field, Bryant displays the arm and hands for third base, but his defensive range is just okay. His college coach thinks he can stick at third, and some scouts believe he will not grow too beefy for the hot corner, and could play an average third base in the majors. But according to The New York Times, his coach also thinks Bryant could benefit from a change to the outfield.
"[USD coach Rich] Hill said Bryant would be an adequate big-league third baseman but had Gold Glove potential as a right fielder."
--AP, The New York Times
The same article discusses Bryant's outstanding character, work ethic, and drive to succeed.
When a bat is as special as Bryant's, there is no shame in playing any position on the field, even a 'non-premium' position like LF, 1B, or DH. Bryant is the type of college prospect who should move through a farm system quickly, and once he reaches the majors, could be a hitter that opposing pitchers fear to face.
Bryant's floor is that of a power-wielding designated hitter, left fielder, or first baseman whose body outgrows his ability to play above-average defense. He will likely be a regular major league player, even at his floor, but if concerns about making contact are for real, then Bryant could be more Russell Branyan than Ted Williams.
Hyperbole aside, the sky is the limit. Bryant's approach and power are such that dreaming on All-Star appearances, MVP considerations, and (dare I say it?) historic home run numbers seems allowable. Bryant has one of the most prolific power bats to ever leave the college ranks, and he could be a franchise-altering talent.
Projected Draft Round
If Bryant is not selected first overall, it is hard to imagine him falling past the Rockies at pick number three. Bryant's power in Coors Field ... one shivers at the possibilities, though Bryant's power and the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid also inspires drool.
Will He Sign?
Almost certainly. He is advised by Scott Boras, but after an arguably historic junior season, it's impossible to imagine improving his draft stock beyond where it is today. Even if he falls to the third pick, the Rockies have over $6 million they can allocate to their first-round pick.