Mar 10, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant prior to the game against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Prospect watch: will Kris Bryant be called up this year?

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No.  At least that is what Cubs GM Theo Epstein says when questioned about whether Kris Bryant will be in Chicago anytime this year.

Epstien knows, as all Cub fans do, that this season is a lost cause.  He has repeatedly said that he doesn’t want to rush Bryant.

Bryant may be rushing him.

Bryant, drafted second overall by the Cubs last year out of San Diego State, really has nothing left to prove at the minor league level.

The 22 year old slugger has destroyed minor league pitching both with the Tennesee Smokies and Iowa Cubs.  In 68 games at Tennessee, Bryant hit .355 with 22 homers and 58 RBI.  He hasn’t slowed down since his promotion to AAA either.  He is hitting .329 with 8 homers and 22 RBI in 22 games.

I think it’s safe to say that he’s ready.  He has hit .348 with 30 homers and 80 RBI in just 90 games in his two stops so far.

Luis Valbuena is the incumbent Cub at the hot corner.  Valbuena has had a nice season, hitting .255 with five homers and 22 RBI.  That said, Valbuena is better suited as a utility player off the bench.  His dip in average and lack of power in the last month support that theory.

Jun 15, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena (24) in the dugout during game. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Epstein’s best efforts and intentions, I think Bryant will finally force the issue.  That is unless Epstein wants him to take a shot at Joe Bauman’s minor league single season home run record of 72 set back in 1954

Add to that the fact that Valbuena and Darwin Barney could both help out a contender, the Cubs could end up with two open infield positions in the next few weeks.

Arismendy Alcantara is likely to fill the void at second base.  That leaves third base open, and Bryant is the prime candidate to fill it with top ten prospect Javier Baez struggling at AAA (.242 average, 14 HR, 106 strikeouts).

That said, I think the Cubs ultimately hang on to Valbuena, which will keep Bryant in the minors a bit longer.  How much longer?  I don’t think the Cubs can avoid a September call-up.

ETA: September 1st

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Tags: Chicago Cubs Javier Baez Kris Bryant

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