Way Back Machine: Blue Jays drafted Kris Bryant in 18th round of 2010 draft


During the dog days of winter, there has been a lot of talk recently about prospect rankings, with pundits trying to get their word in before the onset of Spring Training. In the last week alone, MLB.com and Keith Law of ESPN released their top 100 rankings, and while the Toronto Blue Jays had a good showing on both with names like Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez, Dalton Pompey, and Jeff Hoffman all getting the love, there was one particular constant among them.

Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant ranked at or near the top of nearly every list that was released.

Now, let’s hop into the way back machine and take a trip back to the warm summer of 2010. Specifically, we’ll take a quick stopover at the 2010 MLB Draft. For Blue Jays fans, this draft was both memorable and forgettable. While the Jays had some triumphs (Sanchez with the 34th pick), Noah Syndergaard at 38, Justion Nicolino at 80, and Dalton Pompey with the 486th pick, others will lament taking Deck McGuire with the 11th overall pick and passing on Chris Sale and Christian Yelich in the process.

However, it was the Jays pick that came two rounds after Pompey that is the most intriguing, and also present one of the bigger “what-if” moments of the draft. With the 546th overall pick of the 2010 draft, the Blue Jays selected Las Vegas high school star, Kris Bryant.

At the time of the pick, Bryant was seen as a project. The power was easily projectable and scouts felt that he was a talent that could go in the top five rounds. However, a shortstop at the time, Bryant was iffy at best in terms of his fielding and scouts felt that he would undoubtedly be moved to third, but worries he would eventually have to move to first. This 2010 MLB Draft scouting video showcases just how scouts were divided on what kind of player he would be as a pro, and likely explained why he slid to the Jays so late in the draft.

Not deterred by his slide, Bryant instead decided to forego signing that summer and opted to spend two seasons at the University of San Diego instead. Ultimately, that paid off in droves for Bryant, as he re-entered the draft in 2013 and went to the Chicago Cubs with the 2nd overall pick.

Now a third baseman, Bryant transitioned well to professional baseball. In just 36 games with across three levels in his first season, Bryant hit .336/.390/.688 with 9 home runs and 32 RBI between rookie ball and High-A. He would follow that up with a .364/.457/.727 showing with 6 more home runs and 27 RBI on his way to the Arizona Fall League MVP later that season.

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All that paled in comparison to what Kris Bryant did during his first full season of professional baseball. Splitting the year between Double-A and Triple-A, Bryant was among the minor league leaders in home runs with 42 and RBI with 110. Additionally, he contributed a .325/.438/.661 slash-line. While the 162 strike-outs seemed like a lot (especially in 594 plate appearances), Bryant offset that by also taking 86 walks.

Oh, and those concerns about sticking at third base? They’re long gone, as he now projects to stay at the position for the foreseeable future, with a move to first base or right field a possibility as he gets older due to his size.

Of course, that all said, the Blue Jays can’t exactly lament the one that got away here either. That late in the draft, and with the talent he projected at, it was a long-shot that he’d sign with the Blue Jays anyway. Guys with that type of ceiling don’t tend to undervalue themselves to that extreme and sell low. Additionally, the Blue Jays wound up with a fairly good third baseman in the process, right around the same time that Bryant is ready to crack his way into a Major League line-up.

Still, it’s fun to wonder once in a while. Would the Blue Jays have held on to him as a prospect after having acquired Brett Lawrie earlier that winter for Shaun Marcum? Would he have been included in one of the trades, either with the Marlins or the Mets, possibly holding on to Nicolino or Syndergaard in the process?

Who knows? It will just have to be one of life’s big mysteries.

Next: Blue Jays top prospects #13 - Richard Urena