In an announcement that surprised no one, considering his monster season, Kris Bryant on Tuesday was named Baseball America’s 2014 Minor League Player of the Year.
Bryant, selected in the 2013 draft with the second overall pick, began the season in Double-A Tennessee. He dominated, forcing a promotion to Iowa in June, where he didn’t slow down at all. Bryant finished the year hitting .325/.438/.661 with 43(!) home runs.
His OPS of 1.098 was the highest among former winners of the award since Tim Salmon in 1992, and he had the second most home runs ever among winners (Ron Kittle hit 50 in 1982). Bryant is the first Cub to win the award, which began in 1981.
Bryant’s 2013 year wasn’t half-bad either: He was named College Player of the Year, helped the Daytona Cubs win a championship and then won the Arizona Fall League MVP award.
He has done it all, thus far. The only question left regarding Bryant is when we’ll get to see his easy, opposite-field power in Chicago next season.
* Jeff Smardzija is back in Chicago. At least for one game. He pitches Wednesday night for the A’s against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field (7:10 CT). Samardzija spoke with the media on Monday and hinted that a return to the Cubs down the line is not out of the question. He told Patrick Mooney that coming back to Chicago after 2015 “is absolutely something on my list. I love it here.” Samardzija would be in his 30s when he becomes a free agent, so it would be interesting to see if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would even be willing to roll the dice on him when the time comes.
* Another A’s pitcher linked to the Cubs, Jon Lester, pitched on Tuesday against the White Sox. Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs had their pro scouting director watching Lester, who pitched eight innings of two-run ball to pick up the win. Lester has been very effective for Oakland since being traded from Boston earlier this year. He has yet to give up more than three earned runs in any of his eight starts with the A’s.
* Javier Baez, who has been scuffling of late, had a nice game on Tuesday against the Blue Jays. He reached base four times, with two hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. He also scored two runs and stole a base. Baez hasn’t homered since Aug. 23, however.