Hey, not sure if you've heard, but the Chicago Cubs have a new third baseman—fella by the name of Kris Bryant. Maybe you missed it; it's been one of those under-the-radar stories.
All kidding aside, the Bryant era has officially begun on the North Side. The service-time shenanigans are in the rear-view mirror. The game's most hotly anticipated prospect, dubbed the man "with a golden bat and Zac Efron smile" by the The New York Times' Ben Strauss, is in The Show at last.
If you're a Cubs fan guzzling from the trough of spring optimism, it's the start of something big, the spark that sets Chicago on an accelerated, unstoppable postseason path.
To the dispassionate observer, that might seem like overkill. Bryant has been in the big leagues for exactly three games and has gone 3-for-10 with one extra-base hit and four strikeouts.
The potential is there, though, and it's undeniable.
You know about the 43 home runs Bryant hit between Double-A and Triple-A last season. You saw the MLB-leading nine long balls he launched this spring before his controversial (and short-lived) demotion.
Now, that same game-changing pop has been inserted into a lineup that's already laden with young talent. Yes, the hype machine cranked into overdrive for these Cubs over the winter. Yes, you're allowed to be skeptical.
Bryant himself took a measured tone when asked about his still-to-come first major league home run, per MLB.com's Sarah Trotto:
Hopefully that's next. But when you start trying to hit home runs and worrying about that, then they don't come. I've never been the type to go up there and swing for a home run or try to get one. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't happen for the next 20 games, I'll try to get on base and do what I can to help the team win.
It's obviously a tiny sample. Overall, Chicago sits at 6-5, two games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.
It's way early. We're not even through April. But every win matters in what should be one of baseball's toughest, most balanced divisions.
If the Cubs are going to fulfill their promise this year and dare the long-suffering faithful to think curse-busting thoughts, they'll need Bryant to lead the way.
He's not alone. Chicago already boasts proven bats—guys like shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, both of whom made the All-Star team in 2014.
And there's more offensive talent marinating in the minors, including infielder Addison Russell, the next can't-miss prospect. That depth, along with the addition of ace left-hander Jon Lester over the offseason, is what made the Cubs a trendy preseason pick.
But let's get real: Bryant is the cornerstone, the franchise building block. And it's a safe bet his fortunes will mirror the Cubs'—this season and well into the future.
As Windy City legend Mike Ditka declares in a pretty darn awesome video produced by Red Bull (that also features an inevitable goat cameo): "Guess what bud? They called you up. Now's your time. The wait is over."
"We couldn’t be happier to have Kris Bryant in the organization," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in March after sending his budding slugger down to, uh, work on his defense, per Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. "He's a remarkable young man and it looks like he’s going to be a terrific big league player really soon."
After a couple of weeks of speculation and teeth-gnashing, "soon" has arrived. Buckle up, Cubs fans, and enjoy the ride.
All statistics current as of April 19 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.