The Cubs 6.5% walk rate prior to last night's games was the lowest in baseball (league average 8.1%). The following Cubs with 150 PA or more are or were above league average: Geovany Soto (9.6%), Luis Valbuena (9.8%), Ian Stewart (10.4%), David DeJesus (10.6%) and Bryan LaHair (11.2%).
One of those players is now with the Texas Rangers. Another is done for the season and will probably be non-tendered when the season ends. That leaves Valbuena, DeJesus and LaHair. Valbuena isn't very good. DeJesus is a solid MLB player, but not part of a Cubs rebuilding plan. Bryan LaHair is playing out of position and also not going to be a part of the Cubs rebuilding process.
The following players are or were below average (150 or more PA): Alfonso Soriano (6.1%), Joe Mather (5.9%), Reed Johnson (5.5%), Tony Campana $5.2%), Darwin Barney (4.8%), Anthony Rizzo (4.7%) and Starlin Castro (4.1%). Soriano is old, Johnson is gone, Mather isn't very good, Campana might have value off the bench. That leaves Barney, Rizzo and Castro. All three of them figure to be a part of a Cubs future and they're the three worst on the team at taking walks.
Rizzo and Castro are young and should improve some. Barney just doesn't have much power so his walk rate will always remain low. Rizzo's ZIPS projection is for an 8.4% walk rate so that's better than average. It was just 8.1% at AAA this year so I'm skeptical it's going to be that high moving forward. Castro is just who he is. He's a free swinger who isn't going to walk much.
Two of the three guys the Cubs are hoping to rebuild around aren't especially skilled at getting on base via the walk. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters are two young players the Cubs are hoping will join the other three. Vitters has never been known as a guy who likes to take pitches. It's been said that Vitters has been more of a contact hitter, but he was on pace to strikeout more than 100 times at AAA and his ZiPS projection at this point is a 16.0% strikeout rate. That's more than 100 times per full season. His walk rate projected to be 4.0%, which is the lowest of the group. Even Darwin Barney is at 4.6%.
Brett Jackson is going to strikeout a lot, but ZiPS projects he'll walk in 10.4% of his plate appearances.
The Cubs future has Vitters (4.0%), Barney (4.6%) and Castro (5.3%) who are projected among the last patient hitters at this point. Vitters is in the bottom 5%, Barney the bottom 10% and Castro the bottom 20%. Rizzo is average and Jackson above average.
The Cubs best prospect in the minor leagues is Javier Baez and his career walk rate is 4.0%. We're talking about a small sample with him so far, but he hasn't been known as the patient type either.
Either these guys have to get better at taking walks or the Cubs need to fill in around them with guys who can. Walks aren't everything, but they are an important part of offense.