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Cubs’ Kris Bryant rated No. 1 prospect by ESPN

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (77) takes batting practice during spring training baseball practice Friday Feb. 21 2014 MesAriz.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (77) takes batting practice during spring training baseball practice, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) ORG XMIT: AZRS110

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Updated: July 18, 2014 8:48PM



Kyle Schwarber wasn’t the Cubs’ only decorated prospect moving up this week.

In addition to the Cubs’ top pick in last month’s draft already getting his second professional promotion (to advanced Class A Daytona), last year’s top pick, Kris Bryant, landed the top spot in ESPN’s midseason prospects ranking Thursday – up from 15th on its preseason list.

Bryant, the Southern League All-Star Home Run Derby champ and Futures Game selection, is tied with Texas Rangers prospect Joey Gallo for the home run lead in professional baseball this season with 31 – two more than major-league leader Jose Abreu of the White Sox.

Bryant, 22, is ranked among the top three prospects in baseball in three of the major midseason rankings, including second by Baseball America (up from No. 8 before the season) and third by Baseball Prospectus (up from No. 17).

How quickly last year’s No. 2 overall draft pick can rise from AAA Iowa is the biggest question facing him and the club as the season pushes toward September roster expansions.

The Cubs are in no hurry to promote Bryant to the big leagues for reasons ranging from the lack of any urgency at the big league level right now to the six-year guarantee on big-league club control that makes every few weeks of service time a potentially precious commodity.

But if Bryant, who was the Arizona Fall League MVP last year, has shown anything in roughly five months of minor-league baseball, and a month of big-league spring training, it’s a rare hitting ability that defies the game’s recent trend toward pitching dominance.

Maybe even that he’s ready to compete against big-league pitching.

After a 68-game start at AA Tennessee that put him atop nearly every offensive category in Southern League batting (.355 with a .458 on-base percentage and .702 slugging percentage), Bryant is off to a .322 start at AAA Iowa that includes nine homers and an 1.105 OPS in 24 games.

In addition to Bryant, Iowa teammates Addison Russell (No. 4) and Javy Baez (No. 8) also made the top 10 of ESPN’s latest ranking – as they did in both the Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus rankings as well.

NOTE – Kyuji Fujikawa, the $9.5 million reliever who underwent Tommy John surgery last season, was transferred to Class A Kane County to continue his injury rehab assignment.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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