“Go West, Young Man”: Examining the Kris Bryant Trade

Kris Bryant by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

This is going to be a tough play… Bryant… The Cubs win the World Series!

Joe Buck

It seemed almost unimaginable that Chicago Cubs legend, Kris Bryant, will be wearing another uniform, but that day has finally arrived. Kris Bryant has been traded to the San Francisco Giants. The return to the trade will be covered below and while the players brought in have significant upside and projection, a historic figure in Cubs lore has left the organization.

From #2 overall pick in the 2013 draft to 2014 minor league player of the year to 2015 rookie of the year to 2016 NL MVP and World Champion, Kris Bryant has cemented his legacy in Chicago. Though a #17 flag bearing Bryant’s name will likely not be hanging from the foul poles at Wrigley in the future, Kris’s seven plus seasons in the organization have left an indelible impact on the Chicago Cubs.

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Examining the return

Alexander Canario

Canario is a huge upside prospect with a very high variance. He has impressive power that is generated from incredible bat speed. Canario represents a player that is a good test for the Cubs hitting infrastructure. He did take some time to adjust in the early going of the season (hardly an uncommon sentiment in a post COVID season) and since June 2nd, Canario has put up a .265/.340/.482 line with a 112 wRC+ and 26.6 K%/10.2 BB%. He is a good athlete with average speed. Canario has split time between center and right field in his pro career, but profiles better in right field. I believe he is a Top 20 prospect for the Cubs. Several publications rank Canario as a Top 10 prospect in the Cubs system. If you believe in his adjustments and breakout, then the Cubs landed an impact prospect.

Despite sitting in the international spending penalty box in 2016 after signing Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox for $6 million the year before, the Giants still found a bargain by signing Canario for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic. He won MVP honors at the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League’s all-star game during his 2017 pro debut and really broke out two years later by batting .318/.377/.623 with 16 homers in 59 games between Rookie and short-season ball.

With the best bat speed among San Francisco prospects outside of Marco Luciano, as well as his growing strength and the loft and leverage in his right-handed swing, Canario has well above-average raw power. Though he hit .291 in his first three years as a pro, he’s overly aggressive and gets too pull-happy and long with his stroke. After he posted a 30 percent strikeout rate in 2019, the Giants had him focus on strike-zone discipline and the consistency of his at-bats at their alternate site and in instructional league. 

MLB Pipeline
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Caleb Kilian

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Caleb Kilian. After watching several games of footage, I can say that I firmly believe prognosticators are sleeping on Kilian. The righthander is a “command+” pitcher who had a 1.14 BB/9 in AA (0.42 in Hi-A!) with a 26.2 K%. Kilian’s command is primarily derived from his focus on the fastball. Kilian throws three fastballs with a four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastball (cutter) all being used often in at-bats. The four-seam operates 94-96 mph and has solid ride up in the zone. It is helped by his excellent command. Both his cutter and two-seam are solid pitches that can generate whiffs (cutter) or weak contact (two-seam). His cutter replaced a former slider that wasn’t a very successful pitch.

Mechanically, Kilian excels with smooth, repeatable delivery, which aids his command+ profile. Kilian has a long arm stroke, which is a mechanical feature that some teams have moved away from in recent years. The Cubs are not one of those clubs as multimedia producer for Marquee Sports Network, Lance Brozdowski, illustrated perfectly with Cubs prospects Ryan Jensen, Kilian, and Alexander Vizcaino.

One inconsistent note that I’ve read about Kilian is the reports on his curveball. Some evaluators note that he doesn’t have much of a breaking ball and others feel it above-average. Count me amongst the latter category. This is an above-average curveball that generates weak contact and whiffs (especially when he buries it). Kilian is having real success at the upper levels of the minors. This is an advanced arm that can still get better with an improved changeup. The Cubs have also succeeded in developing sliders amongst the pitching prospects so look for them to reincorporate a slider into his repertoire. Bold claims: I feel like this is a mid-rotation arm, the most advanced starter in the Cubs system (until Jordan Wicks debuts), and a top 10 Cubs prospect.

Caleb Kilian across multiple 2021 starts

Kilian added strength during his layoff and showed increased velocity in short stints at instructs, topping out at 98 mph after usually ranging from 90-95 with his four-seam fastball in college. After battling inconsistency with his breaking balls at Texas Tech, he has added some power to his curveball and scrapped his slider in favor of a shorter, harder cutter. He also exhibits feel for an average changeup. 

MLB Pipeline
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Wrap up

It’s impossible to match the impact Kris Bryant has brought to the Chicago Cubs organization with the players in this trade, but it was apparent that the Cubs were open to moving on from Kris for the past several seasons. No, it has nothing to do with him turning down a $200 million dollar extension offer (that was categorically denied) and no, it was not because Kris wanted to play for some other team. It all is a result of finances from a major league club that is turning the page. Kris Bryant is a part of some of the best memories in my fandom of watching the Cubs. I’ll wish him well as I watch the Cubs the rest of the season and dream of a better and brighter future. This trade brings both a high floor in Kilian and high upside (Canario). Cubs fans are hoping that the end result is two solid or better major league players.

Published by

Greg Zumach

Following the Cubs minor leagues and the MLB draft has been my passion since I became a fan. I try to focus on deeper dives into players along with MLB Draft content throughout the year.

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