CHICAGO - The Chicago Cubs today named Double-A Tennessee third baseman Kris Bryant and Single-A Kane County right-handed pitcher Paul Blackburn the organization's minor league player and pitcher of the month for May, respectively.
Bryant, 22, led the Southern League with a .407 batting average (44-for-108), 30 runs, seven doubles, 12 home runs, 34 RBI and 17 walks in 29 May games for the Smokies. He posted a league-leading OPS of 1.298, including an on-base percentage of .492 and a slugging percentage of .806, both of which had Bryant as the category leader.
Bryant had multiple hits in 14 of his 29 games, including two four-hit contests and four three-hit contests. He reached safely in 25 games and recorded at least one hit in all but seven games. Bryant was twice named the league's Hitter of the Week (May 5-12 and May 26-June 1).
A native of Las Vegas, Nev., the six-foot, five-inch third baseman leads the league this season with a .353 average, a .460 on-base percentage, a .700 slugging percentage, a 1.160 OPS, 50 runs, 73 hits, 19 home runs, 51 RBI and 145 total bases, while his 36 walks rank second. He yesterday was named to the 2014 Southern League All-Star Game.
Bryant, the second overall pick of the 2013 draft out of the University of San Diego, is spending his first season at the Double-A level after playing with three clubs last summer. He combined for a .336 batting average with 14 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 32 RBI in 36 games between Rookie League Mesa, Single-A Boise and Single-A Daytona. On November 16, 2013, Bryant was named the Most Valuable Player of the Arizona Fall League, playing for the Mesa Solar Sox.
Blackburn, 20, went 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA (6 ER/28.2 IP) in five May starts for Kane County, walking just five and striking out 26, good for a ratio of 5.2 strikeouts per walk. He held the opponent to one or no runs in four of his five outings. Blackburn allowed just one home run on the month, and recorded a .250 batting average against (27-for-108).
Blackburn was selected by the Cubs in the sandwich round (56th overall) of the 2012 draft out of Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif. The six-foot, two-inch righthander is 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA (14 ER/54.0 IP), 43 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 10 starts this season. He has held his opponents to a .234 batting average, including a .159 clip with runners in scoring position, while posting a 1.06 WHIP (47 H, 10 BB, 54.0 IP).
Following the draft in 2012, Blackburn, then 18, pitched to a 2-0 record and a 3.48 ERA (8 ER/20.2 IP) in nine games for Rookie League Mesa. In 2013, he appeared in 13 games (12 starts) for Boise, finishing the campaign 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA (17 ER/46.0 IP) and 38 strikeouts. In 22 starts in the last two years, Blackburn has surrendered more than two earned runs just four times.