Baseball / Sports

Kris Bryant's eventual position could depend on where other Cubs play

Before Kris Bryant receives a promotion to the majors, the Cubs might want to decide what position he ultimately will play.

In this era of player versatility, the Cubs are trying to emulate the recent success of the division rival Cardinals. Take, for instance, the logjam at shortstop, where Javier Baez is filling in for three-time All-Star Starlin Castro and Addison Russell recently completed a successful season for Double-A Tennessee.

All three obviously can't play the same position, so barring a trade, two will need to find a new spot.

Bryant, who played exclusively at third base in the minors this season, presents an interesting case. The latest consideration is keeping the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder slugger at third because of his improved defense during his storied 2014 season at Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

"He played a lot better at the end of the season than earlier (at Tennessee)," one National League scout said. "He's so long, but he can get to balls hit to either side of him. He has to bend a long way to get to some grounders, but I saw a marked improvement. He has a plus-arm, and his hands are soft.

"Is he ready? No question. I see the Cubs' point about not wanting to start his (service time) clock. But talent-wise, he's ready to go."

While President Theo Epstein told Bryant to take a rest before preparing for what the Cubs hope is a seven-month season in 2015, auditions are ongoing at the major league level.

The latest could include Mike Olt, who is expected to rejoin the team this weekend after salvaging his season at Iowa with seven home runs, 24 RBIs and a .302 average in 28 games after hitting .139 with 84 strikeouts in 187 at-bats for the Cubs.

Olt is expected to play first base in place of the injured Anthony Rizzo but played most of the season at third before his demotion in late July.

The Cubs haven't ruled out Bryant moving to the outfield. Jorge Soler has displayed in a short time that he can take over right field long term, and Arismendy Alcantara has made a smooth transition to center, although the Cubs may start him at second base against left-handed starters in the final 3 1/2 weeks.

There is a possibility the Cubs will trade Castro, who is under contract through 2019, to acquire high-ceiling pitching. But Castro rebounded from a miserable 2013 season and was featured as part of a video on a website for fans looking to renew their season tickets for 2015.

Russell, whom many outside evaluators consider the organization's best defensive shortstop, likely needs another full season at Triple A. If the Cubs are committed to Baez as their second baseman of the future, they would have to seek a shortstop as a plug-in for 2015 if Castro goes.

In the meantime, Bryant is likely to work out with gloves suitable for third base and the outfield.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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