KODAK, Tenn. – USA TODAY announced Wednesday that 2014 Tennessee Smokies third baseman Kris Bryant has been named the publication’s Minor League Baseball Player of the Year. The award was voted on by USA TODAY Sports writers and editors, in addition to readers at USATODAY.com.
The 22-year-old in 138 games between Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa posted a .325 average (160-492), adding a Minor League leading 43 homers, half of which were hit while with the Smokies, and 110 RBI, the third-most runs driven in by a Minor League player in 2014. Bryant also paced the Minor Leagues with 78 extra-base hits, 325 total bases, and a .661 slugging percentage.
Bryant began his 2014 campaign with the Smokies, and accumulated a .355 average (88-248) along with 22 roundtrippers and 58 RBI. The Southern League Mid-Season All-Star and three-time league Hitter of the Week winner won the circuit’s Home Run Derby at Historic Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was promoted to Triple-A Iowa on June 18 after starting the league’s Mid-Summer Classic at third base. At the time of his promotion to the I-Cubs, the slugger paced the circuit in most offensive categories, including runs scored (61), hits, home runs, RBI, walks (43), extra-base hits (42), total bases (174), on-base percentage (.458), slugging percentage (.702) and OPS (1.160).
One of the third baseman’s most memorable moments in a game for the Smokies came on May 7 against the Birmingham Barons at Smokies Stadium after slamming two homers and driving in a career-high six RBI. Another was in Bryant’s very first at bat with Tennessee on April 3 at Pensacola, when he homered on his very first swing off rehabbing Cincinnati Reds ace Mat Latos. The slugger enjoyed a scorching May, compiling a .407 average (44-108) with 12 homers and 34 RBI en route to being named the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Month.
Tabbed the number eight overall prospect and second-best Cubs prospect by Baseball America before this year, the Nevada native continued his hot hitting ways in Iowa, batting .295 (72-244) with 21 homers and 52 RBI in 70 games. Bryant was selected by the Cubs as the second overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft out of the University of San Diego.
The honor was voted on by USA TODAY Sports writers and editors, who each counted for one point, in addition to readers at USATODAY.com, who totaled two points. Bryant ran away with the award by tallying nine of the possible 11 points, with Texas Rangers prospect Joey Gallo garnering the other two points.