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Cubs hold off on pitching, draft power hitter Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant

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FRIDAY

Pirates
AT CUBS

The facts: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9,
720-AM.

The pitchers: Travis Wood (5-3, 2.75 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (3-2, 2.17).

The rest
of the series

Saturday: 3:05 p.m., CSN, 720-AM. Jeff Samardzija (3-6, 2.96) vs. A.J. Burnett (3-6, 3.22).

Sunday: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. Edwin Jackson (1-8, 6.29) vs. Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.45).

Updated: June 7, 2013 9:44PM



Did the Cubs get the next Bryce Harper or Mike Trout on Thursday with the No. 2 overall pick — a big hitter who could land in the big leagues fast as an impact player?

‘‘Deep down I absolutely think that,’’ said University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant, the Cubs’ choice for what many considered their most important draft pick in at least a decade.

‘‘I think every ballplayer should think like that — you should think you can go out there and play with the best of the best,” said the 6-5 third baseman, who has drawn comparisons to Troy Glaus and Jayson Werth. ‘‘That confidence is definitely inside of me.’’

It’s a confidence the Cubs seem to share after passing on the biggest power arm in the draft and their greatest area of need to take Bryant over Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray.

Given the dearth of elite pitching prospects in the Cubs’ system, the decision means the Cubs will look elsewhere for frontline starters — such as 26-year-old Cuban defector/free agent Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, or deadline trades of veterans again.

It might also suggest the timeline on the Cubs’ rebuilding is being moved back again, especially if Matt Garza is traded next month or leaves via free agency in the fall.

The bottom line with this pick was choosing the likeliest big-impact, long-term player, said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ top scouting and player-development executive.

Bryant, 20, a junior whose adviser is hard-negotiating agent Scott Boras, hit .329 with 31 home runs and an .820 slugging percentage in 62 games for San Diego this year.

Once the Houston Astros used their No. 1 overall pick on Stanford pitcher Mark Appel — coveted by some in the Cubs’ draft room — Gray seemed the likely choice for the Cubs to get the impact pitcher they crave.

The Colorado Rockies took Gray with the third pick.

‘‘We felt the best player for the Cubs long-term, looking at those two players, was Kris Bryant,’’ McLeod said. ‘‘We talked a lot about the history of the draft and position player vs. pitcher and those kinds of things.’’

With top first-round picks, position players historically succeed at a higher rate with bigger impact than pitchers.

Recent changes in college bat rules that reduced the exaggerated power of traditional aluminum bats made Bryant’s numbers even more impressive and reliable for evaluating, McLeod said.

‘‘Don’t get me wrong,’’ McLeod added, ‘‘we thought all three of those guys were very talented and deserved to go 1-2-3 in the draft. We just made the pick that we felt was right for this organization now and for the long term.’’

Gray’s draft stock was called into question in the last week with revelations he tested positive for Adderall, an ADHD medication commonly used by athletes for enhanced short-term focus.

But McLeod said: ‘‘Ultimately it didn’t affect how we felt about him as a player and as a person. That really has no bearing on it, other than we had to do more due diligence on it. We certainly wish good health and success for Jon.’’

The Cubs have a $10.6 million MLB-mandated budget for their top 10 picks, including $6.7 million for Bryant.

Bryant said he didn’t know much about the Cubs except that they haven’t won the World Series in “a while.’’

‘‘Hopefully, I can do all I can to help the Cubs win one,’’ he said, adding he plans to start quickly. ‘‘If we can make this deal happen, I obviously think I can play in the big leagues now. I have that type of confidence in myself. But that’s not my decision.’’



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