Smokies 3B Kris Bryant is one of the top prospects in baseball. The Cubs farmhand leads the Southern League in 10 offensive categories.
KODAK, TN (WBIR) -- At every Smokies home game this summer, fans have gotten the chance to see something special.
"It really just doesn't make sense," said Smokies broadcaster Mick Gillispie. "But he's doing it."
Every time No. 17 steps up to the plate, a glimpse of baseball's future.
"His whole game is coming together and he's got a chance to be a special player someday," said manager Buddy Bailey.
Forget the triple crown.
In his first full season of pro baseball, 22-year old Kris Bryant leads the Southern League in 10 offensive categories.
Of course that includes homers. He had 22 before a home game on June 13, nine more than the next guy.
"Every time I hit a home run I feel like a little kid running around the bases," Bryant said. "When you're little and playing little league, that's what you want to do is hit a home run. Even when I do it now I get that same feeling."
He's gotten that feeling a lot. And it didn't take long.
Bryant homered in his first Spring Training at bat.
Then he went deep in his first Double-A at bat, off of Major Leaguer Mat Latos, who was on a rehab stint.
And he hasn't really stopped.
He hit 12 in May alone.
"Always had power growing up," Bryant said. "I take pride in hitting the ball pretty far."
Growing up in Las Vegas, Bryant honed his hitting from his father Mike.
Mike Bryant played in the Red Sox organization, where he learned from the best.
"Ted Williams was actually his hitting coach for a little while," Kris Bryant said.
Mike Bryant took full advantage of his sessions with the Hall of Famer.
"I got close to 100 hours with this guy over two years," Mike Bryant said. "I'd been taught a slightly downward slope to the ball the whole time. Ted advocated a slight upswing. With the pitcher being elevated on the mound throwing downhill. He wanted to the bat path and the ball path to meet on a good collision angle."
Mike transferred the theory to Kris, and now it's a big part of his game.
"Throughout the years my Dad just kind of put that in to my swing and I've kind of hit it the same since," said Kris Bryant.
At the University of San Diego last year, Bryant hit 31 homers. That's more than over 200 other college teams.
The Cubs picked him 2nd overall.
"We were really fortunate that Houston passed on Kris," said Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod.
Now the Cubs must decide if there's any more Bryant can prove at the AA level.
The organization generally likes to keep players at one level for one year and let them "dominate" McLeod explained.
But the team's hand may soon be forced.
"Kris is doing something that not many people have done before so it certainly makes us have discussions about his timeline," said McLeod.
But we know where the timeline ends. In the big leagues. And soon.
Years from now, people that come to these guys are going to say I remember when Kris Bryant played for the Smokies," said Gillispie, "and other baseball fans are going to be jealous."