Kris Bryant had the look of a man not worrying over that which he has no control.
A week ago, when the Chicago Cubs sent him to Triple-A Iowa in an anticipated move, Bryant said he was displeased. He said he’s over it now.
“I don’t think about the future, I don’t think about the past,” said Bryant, 23, baseball’s No. 1 overall prospect. “I’m in the moment, and I’m having fun with it.
“I just play. I’m in New Orleans right now trying to help the Iowa Cubs win.”
He won’t be here long, the guess being he’ll be called up to Chicago by Friday. Chicago sent Bryant down for the first 12 days so that this season won’t count as a full one of 183 service days, meaning he’ll have to wait until 2022 instead of 2021 to become a free agent. A Major League Baseball player becomes a free agent after six full seasons.
The move was seen as classless by baseball fans and media all over the nation, particularly in Chicago. They wondered if it would be worth it if Chicago struggles early and misses the playoffs by a game.
Bryant, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound third baseman, certainly has proven he can help. In spring training, he batted .425 in 40 at-bats and had 15 RBIs on the strength of a spring-leading nine homers along with three doubles. He had a through-the-roof 1.175 slugging percentage and a .489 on-base percentage.
“I just wanted to go out there and try to make it hard on (the Cubs), and I think I did that,” said Bryant. “When I put my mind to something, a lot of times, it turns out pretty good.
“A lot of the preparation in the offseason really paid off. I went really hard in the weight room and in my (batting) cage at home, and it really did help me, so I’m pretty pleased with that.”
About the only thing not to be pleased about with Bryant is his strikeouts. In 2014, he batted .355 with 22 homers and 58 RBIs in 68 games with Double-A Tennessee, then .295 with 21 home runs and 52 RBIs in 70 games with Iowa.
However, between the two, he struck out 162 times in 492 at-bats, 32 percent of the time. This spring, he fanned 14 times among the 40 at-bats.
Iowa manager Marty Pevey said he and hitting coach Brian Harper are not trying to change anything.
“You’re gonna tell a power hitter not to strike out?” Pevey asked. “He’s gonna strike out a lot, but he’s also going to hit 30 to 40 home runs, and he takes his walks. He has a high batting average and high RBI numbers.”
Bryant said: “I can get better and not chase as many pitches.”
Drafted No. 2 overall in 2013, Bryant has moved quickly through the minors. Harper said that as Bryant gets to know pitchers better and gets more selective, he’ll cut down on strikeouts.
Then there’s where will Bryant play? Chicago traded starting third baseman Luis Valbuena, apparently to make room. However, the Cubs have several good young infield prospects, so Bryant could be moved to the outfield, where he played as a youth, he said, or first base.
A scout for a National League team at Monday’s game against the New Orleans Zephyrs said defense won’t be a problem.
“I think he’s adequate at third base,” he said. “If he plays outfield, because of his size, he doesn’t have that burst. But he’s an above-average runner, and he has a cannon for an arm. He could be a great right fielder.
“His best position is hitter. He’ll play.”
When he was drafted out of the University of San Diego, Bryant received a $6.7 million signing bonus, more than the overall No. 1 pick, Mark Appel ($6.35 million). Until Bryant’s called up, that should continue to tide him over.