Feature photos by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

I’ve been doing plenty of digging into last year’s statistics, especially on the hitting side of things, in preparation for the upcoming minor league spring training. As most of you know, I’m a big spreadsheet guy, keeping track of every player and their full-season affiliate statistics on basically a daily basis.

In getting lost in all the numbers, I came to a realization that being a truly good hitter can be boiled down to three things:

  • The ability to make contact and limit strikeouts
  • The skills to work a count and get on base by drawing walks
  • When putting the ball in play, doing so with authority and for extra bases

So I decided to figure out which guys in the Cubs farm system are the best at doing that. But first, I needed some parameters.


Using my spreadsheets, I was influenced by the great work of Phil Goyette and developed a stat that I call K%+. We are used to seeing numbers like Patrick Wisdom’s 40.8% strikeout rate, but what if we took that number and adjusted it to league average, kinda like what wRC+ does. For example, the league-wide strikeout rate in the Triple-A East (Iowa’s division) was just 24.1% while the High-A Central (South Bend’s division) had the highest league-wide strikeout rate of the four Cubs affiliates (26.4%).

So after accommodating for the number of plate appearances taken in each of the levels in 2021, I have calculated the K%+ for every player in the Cubs system. 100 would mean the player struck out at a league-average rate throughout the course of the season and across the different levels he played at. A 120 K%+ means he was 20% better than league-average (not that he struck out 10% of his plate appearances while average hitters struck out 30% of the time). Likewise, a 90 K%+ means the batter is below league-average by 10%.

2021 System Leaders (prospects, in org. as of 2/4/22)
Bryce Windham, 148 K%+
Yohendrick Pinango, 141 K%+
Tyler Durna, 133 K%+


Take everything I just explained above regarding K%+ and now think of it in terms of BB%+. It is all the same – the point is to figure out what players in the system were the best at drawing walks in comparison to the rest of the league they were playing in. There were a ton of walks issued in the Low-A East league, which makes sense considering those pitchers were the youngest and not used to playing competitively after the year-long layoff. Hitters in the Pelicans’ league walked 11% of their plate appearances compared to a 9.4% walk rate in the Double-A South league.

2021 System Leaders (prospects, in org. as of 2/4/22)
Bryce Ball, 174 BB%+
DJ Artis, 154 BB%+
Chase Strumpf, 147 BB%+


This is the portion of the exercise where I deviate from my own nerdy spreadsheets to use a much simpler and more widely accessible statistic: ISO. If you aren’t familiar with Isolated Power (ISO), I’ll go straight to the Fangraphs library to give you an explanation.

Using is ISO is very simple. It tells you the number of extra bases the player averages per at bat and signals to you the degree to which a particular hitter is a power hitter.

Piper Slowinski, Fangraphs

While stats like Slugging Percentage do something similar, I am only interested in extra base hits for this exercise. Slugging elevated by singles doesn’t interest me, especially when I already have indicators such as K%+ and BB%+ that show how often a hitter puts the ball in play and gets on base.

2021 System Leaders (prospects, in org. as of 2/4/22)
Brennen Davis, .234 ISO
Nelson Velazquez, .226 ISO
Alexander Canario, .206 ISO

But to be completely honest, I don’t really care about who does each of these individual things well. You’ll notice that there are nine names above, meaning there was no one in the system that ranked in the top three of more than one of these statistical categories.

Instead, I want to know who the most complete hitters in the system were in 2021. Let’s take a look at what hitters were better than average at all three criteria.

Only three players match that description. Let’s give a little refresher on what we are looking for in terms of “being better than average” in contact, plate discipline, and power.

Plate appearances requirements – 150 PA. It’s a pretty low bar to reach, but one that can typically be used to trust rate stats such as the ones we are working with here. For referece, Andy Weber (who wouldn’t make the cut in these categories anyways, finished the 2021 season with 149 plate appearances).

Contact – We are simply looking for a K%+ of at least 100

Discipline – Again, all we need is a BB%+ of at least 100

Power – Among all minor league players in baseball with at least 150 plate appearances, the median ISO was .148. We’ll use that.

Of the 91 players that took at least one trip to the plate in full-season last year, just three guys remain…

Jared Young: 123 K%+, 101 BB%+, .180 ISO
Chase Strumpf: 110 K%+, 111 BB%+, .158 ISO
Matt Mervis: 102 K%+, 147 BB%+, .149 ISO

So what does that mean? Am I saying these three guys are most likely to be Major League stars? At least Major League contributors?

I wish I could say yes, but I think the greater point here is less about projecting into the future and more about appreciating the all-around ability of Young, Strumpf, and Mervis at the plate last season.

Each of them put together great at-bats in deep counts, while making impressive contact and without ending in strikeouts. Think about the skill sets you see in years past from the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

And when it comes down to it, accomplishing a feat that only three of 91 hitters were able to do is something that Jared Young, Chase Strumpf, and Matt Mervis should be proud of.