As I make my inaugural post for Cubs Insider, I decided to take a stab at dissecting Kris Bryant's impressive minor league numbers thus far.
We all know Bryant was the second overall selection by the Cubs in the 2013 Amateur Draft last June. Bryant went on to play two warm-up games at rookie ball, where he registered one hit in six at-bats. This was more a move to knock off the rust after his college season ending that May than anything else.
Bryant was quickly promoted to the Boise Hawks, the Cubs' short-season affiliate. He went on to play 18 games for the Hawks, totaling 65 at-bats and 77 plate appearances. Over that stretch he had 23 hits, 13 of which went for extra bases; that equates to an astounding 56.5%. To go along with those gaudy numbers, his walk rate was a very acceptable 10.4% while he struck out at a 22.1% clip. So his BB/K ratio was .47 to go along with a slash line of .354/.416/.692.
Bryant's slugging plus his OBP totaled an outrageous OPS of 1.108 and his wOBA was an incredible .495. If you're not familiar with wOBA, it stands for weighted On Base Average; it was created by Tom Tango (Fangraphs) and is used to measure a hitter’s overall offensive value, based on the relative values of each distinct offensive event and.
In case you're interested, the formula to calculate wOBA is = (0.691×uBB + 0.722×HBP + 0.884×1B + 1.257×2B + 1.593×3B +2.058×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP).
As you can see, it takes into account all major offensive statistics and provides an accurate measure of a player's offensive value. As the season came to a close, and with Boise out of contention for a playoff spot, the Cubs front office felt it was important to give him experience for a playoff run at Daytona.
To close the 2013 season, Bryant played 16 games for the Daytona Cubs, the Cubs' High-A affiliate. In his 62 plate appearances he clubbed 19 hits. Unsurprisingly, 11 of those 19 hits -- yes, you guessed it -- went for extra bases. His strikeout percentage did elevate to 27.4% while his walk rate decreased to 4.8%. But other than Bryant's strikeout to walk ratio most of his numbers were very similar to his campaign with the Boise Hawks.
His slash line of .333/.387/.719 coincided with his Boise numbers. This gave him a 1.106 OPS, just two points shy of the total he racked up in the lower level. Some key things to look at that differentiate the two halves of the season are his slugging and on base percentages.
At Boise, Bryant had 8 walks compared to only 3 at Daytona, which led to the drop in OBP from one spot to the next. His wOBA (.491) remained nearly identical, just .04 points lower, but nonetheless way above average for a baseball player in the minors.
Arizona Fall League
The Daytona Cubs finished the season as Florida St. League Champions and winning a title was a great experience for the Cubs young talent. At the conclusion of the season, Bryant, along with other the other Big Four prospects, took part in the highly competitive Arizona Fall League.
Bryant's walk rate almost quadrupled in the Fall (15.2%), while his strikeout percentage stayed steady in a quarter of the time. His slash line for the Fall makes talent evaluators drool; he posted a .364/.457/.727 for a 1.184 OPS.
Bryant's ISO numbers are consistently way above average and the Fall League he put up a career-high .364. When calculating ISO you take ((2B) + (2*3B) + (3*HR))/AB. Essentially, when you're calculating ISO you're taking Extra Bases/At-Bats to get their isolated power, which in Bryant's case is an astronomical skill.
To put this into perspective, Fangraphs rates ISO numbers in seven categories ranging from awful to excellent. An excellent ISO is .250; Bryant's is over 100 points better than that. This just goes to show how much more advanced Bryant is than his competition.
Finally we transition into the present, Bryant's first chance at a full season in the minor leagues. With Javy Baez at Triple-A Iowa, Albert Almora at Daytona and Jorge Soler recovering from injury, Tennessee was Bryant's team. Now let's dive into his slash line: .350/.453/.685, good for a 1.138 OPS, his career high so far as minor leaguer.
When you look at his splits against left handers vs right handers, you would think there would big differences. This is true, but it's only because he has such a small sample size against left-handed pitching. Bryant's numbers versus lefties are .412/.512/.884 for a 1.336 OPS. This tells us that he has absolutely mashed left-handed pitching, but this was done in only 34 at bats. In 163 at-bats vs. righties, his slash-line is .337/.440/.656, which calculates to a .1097 OPS.
His BB/K rate has actually matched up well with both parts of last season as he walks at 13.4% and strikes out at 26.2%. His home and away splits are very similar: .356/467/.747 at home and .345/.442/,637 on the road. WGN showed a graphic that I then posted on Twitter, showing Bryant's incredible month of May: .407/.492/.807 for an OPS of 1.298.
When I look at those numbers I can't fathom that his OPS was almost at 1.300; that just shows he is locked in at Tennessee and it might be only a matter of a few weeks before we see him promoted.
To conclude, we are seeing something special developing at Tennessee. Bryant has dominated everywhere he has been. As long as his strikeout rate stays between 20% and 25% while his walk rate is in the 10% to 15% rate, I think he is going to continue on this current trend as he continues his journey through the minors.
Bryant is looking like the golden goose that all this losing will produce. He should be the anchor in the Cubs lineup for years to come. For now, he even give us Cubs fans a glimmer of hope in another all-too-challenging season.
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