Rookie Ball: Cubs Have the Best Group of Young Hitters in Baseball
The Cubs have got a pretty good baseball team, at the core of which is a quartet of rookie hitters that could well be together for another half-decade and beyond. But as I’ve rotated portions of content from one to the other and back again, I’ve neglected the opportunity to look at the bigger picture. How, I wondered earlier, do Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber match up against their fellow rookies from around the league?
Heading into Thursday’s action, the Cubs were second in baseball in home runs by rookies with 41 (Rays had 43). Addison Russell added another to the tally, but I was honestly a bit surprised to see that it wasn’t a bit higher. I’m going to go out on a limb though and say that WAR Bear’s continued mashing is going to push the Cubs to the top of the charts soon. And if Soler ever starts to elevate those screamers…whoa.
If we stopped there, it’d be hard to argue the titular point. Good thing we know to pay attention to more than just homers, huh?
Cubs rookies have scored 174 runs, which puts them ahead of the second-place Rays by 55. The RBI gap is even larger, as the Cubs’ 180 dwarfs Tampa’s 112. With a walk rate of 9.7%, the Cubs are second to only the Dodgers (10.9%), though their 28.8% K rate has them behind all but two teams (Twins – 29.4%, Rays – 31.7%).
The Cubs are 12th in batting average by rookies, but that .259 mark is 18 points higher than their total team average. A .337 OBP has them just behind the Pirates (.343) and a .424 slugging percentage puts them in 7th, while their .761 OPS sits 6th.
With a combined WAR of 7.3, Cubs rookies tower above the rest of the pack; the Dodgers are in second with 4.3 and the Phillies and Giants are tied with 3.9 apiece. Much of that comes from the strength of their offensive runs above average (Off), which stands at a robust 26.2, a full 7 runs ahead of either the Cardinals or Astros.
And the best part? Outside of Soler, none of the three main contributors to these metrics was in the majors for even a second prior to this season and Schwarber only played in 6 games in the first half. The second-best part might be the fact that Addison Russell really didn’t start coming into his own until he was shifted over to SS on a full-time basis.
It’s startin’ to come together, Pepper. Anthony Rizzo continues to be the head of this team, but there’s no denying it’s the rookies who’ve allowed the Cubs to finally form like Voltron.