MILWAUKEE -- If the Cubs offense continues to struggle and third-base prospect Kris Bryant continues to tear it up at Class AA Tennessee, the calls will grow louder and louder for the Cubs to bring Bryant up.
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Bryant's season is the most exciting thing the Cubs have going these days, certainly more exciting than the big club -- which took an 11-5 pounding Friday night at the hands of the Brewers at Miller Park. Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood was cuffed around for 10 hits and 7 runs in 2⅔ innings.
The 22-year-old Bryant, a third baseman, entered Friday night with a hitting line of .347/.451/.674 for an OPS of 1.125. He had 16 home runs and 45 RBI, making him a Triple Crown contender in the Southern League. He hit his 17th homer of the year Friday night.
As it is even now, Bryant may be the best hitter in the entire organization, top to bottom.
But the Cubs are going to be careful not to rush him, even to Class AAA Iowa.
There are good reasons for and against moving Bryant up, whether it's to Triple-A or the big club.
On the "yes" side, Bryant's numbers show that he has a handle on Double-A pitching, just one year after the Cubs made him their first-round draft pick (second overall).
As a college product out of San Diego, Bryant is poised, and baseball people like his consistent swing. And if nothing else, a call-up to the big-league level would inject some life around a club that is going nowhere for another year and whose fan base could use something to get excited about.
On the "no" side, the Cubs have a development plan for all of their prospects, and they won't move a player up even one level until he has "checked all the boxes," to use the lingo of team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
And we've seen what can happen when a prospect, even a good one, is rushed.
One argument I won't buy against bringing Bryant to the big leagues is the one about "starting his clock" on service time, affecting his salary-arbitration status.
Epstein and Hoyer already have given contract extensions to young players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, and if Bryant shows early on that he's the real deal, he'll also get an extension, one that will take him through his arbitration years and into his free-agency years.
Nowadays, too, the jump a good prospect has to make from Double-A to the majors isn't all that great. Castro came up from Class AA ball in 2010, and in 2011, he was named to the first of his two all-star teams. Cubs manager Rick Renteria was asked about the Bryant chatter before Friday's game.
"All due respect to everyone who's looking up these young men and their numbers, he's actually doing very, very well," he said. "We're happy that he's doing very, very well. I'll say this: Even when they get to the big leagues, you always have something to learn. You wouldn't have anything else to learn in Double-A, I guess that could be debated. As an organization, everybody's comfortable with where he's at. The organization will make the decision as to how he'll progress."