Cubs' draft pick Bryant comes with confidence

If nothing else, you have to like the confidence of Kris Bryant, the Cubs' first-round draft pick.

“I honestly think I can play in the big leagues now,” said the third baseman out of the University of San Diego shortly after the Cubs took him with the second overall pick. “I have that type of confidence in myself. Like I said, that's not my decision. I'll leave that up to the guys in charge.”

One of the guys in charge is Jason McLeod, the Cubs head of scouting and player development. After the Houston Astros took Stanford pitcher Mark Appel with the first overall pick, the Cubs bypassed Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray in favor of the 20-year-old Bryant. Gray went No. 3 to the Colorado Rockies.

“ ... We're going to take the players we feel are going to provide the most impact for the organization for the long term,” McLeod said. “That's what played out tonight.

“It's been talked about for quite awhile now, who the industry felt were the top players in this draft. Certainly we spent a lot of time scouting all of them, got to know all of them very well. Without telling you how our board exactly lined up, we were never going to go into a draft to draft on need. We talked a lot of about acquiring pitching, power pitching, and certainly those players were out there in this draft and went 1 and 3.

“Ultimately, we're going to make the decisions we feel our best for this organization both in the short and long term, and Kris Bryant was the player for us when it came to that pick.”

With their second pick, 41st overall, the Cubs took left-handed pitcher Rob Zastryzny out of the University of Missouri.

Bryant's numbers this season as a junior for San Diego were eye-popping. He had a hitting line of 329/.493/.820 with 31 home runs to lead the nation.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound right-handed hitter also scored 80 runs and had 13 doubles, 3 triples and 62 RBI in 62 games. He also led the nation in walks (66) and slugging percentage. Bryant struck out 44 times in 302 plate appearances. His 54 homers in three years are a school record.

Advising Bryant is super-agent Scott Boras, and Bryant said he was not thinking about possible difficulties in signing. The Cubs have almost $10.6 million allotted for signings in the first 10 rounds, including $6.7 million for the second pick overall.

Bryant also said he takes as much pride in his third-base defense as he does his batting prowess. Providing the Cubs sign him, they say they'll start his pro career at third base. Josh Vitters, whom the Cubs drafted first in 2007, is at third base for Class AAA Iowa, and his career has progressed slowly.

There also has been talk the Cubs could move last year's top pick, shortstop Javier Baez, to third base eventually.

“We do think in the immediate future (Bryant) is going to play third base for quite a while, and if there is a time down the road that he continues to grow and continue to get stronger and we feel a move may be necessary, then we'll deal with it then,” McLeod said. “You're going to see third base next to Kris Bryant's name in the near future.”

Cubs scouting report

Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field

TV: WGN Friday and Sunday; Comcast SportsNet Saturday

Radio: WGN 720-AM

Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Travis Wood (5-3) vs. Francisco Liriano (3-2) Friday at 1:20 p.m.; Jeff Samardzija (3-6) vs. A.J. Burnett (3-6) Saturday at 3:05 p.m.; Edwin Jackson (1-8) vs. Jeff Locke (5-1) Sunday at 1:20 p.m.

At a glance: The two teams have played six games in Pittsburgh this year, with the Pirates winning four. The Pirates (35-25) are third in the NL Central. Like the Cubs (24-33), they are not an offensive force. They are getting it done with a team ERA of 3.29, third in the NL. The Cubs are seventh, at 3.87. The Pirates entered Thursday ranked 12th in runs, 11 in walks and 12th in on-base percentage. Andrew McCutchen has a hitting line of .284/.347/.450 with 7 homers, and Neil Walker leads the Bucs with a .358 OBP. The Cubs' run differential is back to even, as they've scored and allowed 240 runs.

Next: Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field, Monday-Thursday

— Bruce Miles

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