All the tools
San Diego's homer-hittting Bryant more than a power bat
Remember the name Kris Bryant, because most likely, you’ll be hearing a Major League Baseball announcer calling his name after blasting home run in the very near future.
The University of San Diego junior third baseman is projected to be one of the top players taken in this year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft in June, and with one quick look at Bryant’s season statistics, you don’t have to be a professional scout to see why.
|KRIS BRYANT -- 2013 STATISTICS|
|Base on Balls||56|
|Hit By Pitches||5|
|Grounded in Double Plays||1|
Bryant leads the nation with 25 home runs -- a USD single-season record and more than 211 of 296 Division I teams. A native of Las Vegas, N.V., Bryant also leads the nation with a .851 slugging percentage and 56 walks, and ranks third with 61 runs scored.
The numbers are pretty staggering, considering Bryant’s home-run total is seven more than any other player in Division I, but power isn’t his only strong suit. Bryant leads the Toreros in batting with a .333 average and boasts a solid .945 fielding percentage at the hot corner.
“He’s a five-tool guy and those are very rare finds in college,” San Diego head coach Rich Hill said. “His power is off the charts, but he’s really become a good hitter along with having a lot of power. He’s got great athleticism in the field … he can really defend. I think he’s going to be a big-league third baseman, and that’s really hard to find, too. He’s got good arm strength and good speed. I think he’s got a great career ahead of him in the major leagues.”
Bryant may have been blessed with the natural-born ability to smash the ball out of the park, but it is a talent he and his father have honed for years in the family’s backyard. His father, Mike, was a ninth round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in 1980, and played in the minor leagues for two years. The elder Bryant started his son in the sport at age 4 to develop that sweet swing.
“My parents actually put up a batting cage in our backyard, and it’s still there today,” Bryant said. “A lot of my success in baseball is because I was hitting in the cage every day with my dad ever since I was little. Having the batting cage really helped me in my game, so I’m thankful to my parents for putting that thing in there.”
A highly sought-after recruit out of Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, Bryant was also drafted out of high school by Toronto in the 18th round in 2010. Always a top-notch student, Bryant knew right away getting an education while playing baseball was the right path for him, and despite several other opportunities, USD was the best fit.
“The coaches at USD were loyal to me and extremely confident that if I came here I would get a whole lot better,” Bryant said. “And, I was extremely confident in myself that if I came here I would get a whole lot better. Looking back on the decision to come here, it is the best one I’ve ever made because I really have stepped up my game in every area. I’m very pleased with the progress I’ve made and hopefully I can continue to get better.”
Bryant hit nine homers as a freshman and was the West Coast Conference Co-Player of the Year, and then blasted 14 as a sophomore, earning Baseball America first-team All-America honors. During the past three years, Bryant has gained about 15 pounds of muscle and committed himself in the weight room. Plus, he’s gained the experience of playing with Team USA and summer ball in Cape Cod.
“He’s progressed every year, and taken it to a different level,” Hill said. “This year is obviously freakish.”
Coaches and teammates have had a front-row seat for Bryant’s feats of power, including a home run against Saint Louis on March 9 that may be still be soaring. Reportedly, it cleared the 80-foot light tower in left field at Fowler Park and traveled 500 to 600 feet.
“The one I hit against Saint Louis is probably the furthest ball I’ve ever hit,” Bryant said. “I will remember that for the rest of my life.”
But for Hill, Bryant the person is even more impressive than Bryant the baseball player.
“The one thing that really shines through with Kris is character,” Hill said. “His work ethic is off the charts. He’s the guy you want your daughter to marry, and at the same time you want to walk down a dark alley with him late at night.
“It almost seems too good to be true. Here’s a humble, polite, respectful kid who puts the team first and is on the WCC All-Academic Team and can do what he does on the field. That is unique in today’s society.”
There’s rarely a moment anymore when Bryant isn’t asked for an autograph, or doing an interview or being evaluated by a scout, but he is enjoying the buzz as he nears the next step of his baseball career.
“I’m trying to embrace the whole thing,” Bryant said. “I love when fans ask for autographs … to have folks following my career is awesome. The attention from the scouts and the media -- that’s great, too -- because if they weren’t talking to you then you wouldn’t be considered a top prospect.”
The MLB Draft begins June 6, and on that day, so will the next phase of Bryant’s life, but that does not mean he will not return to San Diego in the future to finish what he started. Bryant carries a 3.35 grade-point average and is majoring in finance.
“It would be kind of silly to not come back and do it,” Bryant said. “Schoolwork has been hammered into me by my parents since I was in kindergarten. I definitely take pride in it and want to finish my degree.”
“He’s a testament on why you go to college,” Hill said. “We try to take these guys into the next phase of their lives, which is manhood, and preparing them for a life in professional baseball is a part of the deal.”
This weekend, however, Bryant’s focus will be on the present as he and the Toreros face a must-win situation when they play host to Portland for a three-game WCC series beginning Friday. In its final league series of the season, USD will be looking to clinch a top-four finish in the WCC standings in order to advance to the conference tournament.