When the Cubs selected Nico Hoerner with the 24th pick in the first round of this year’s draft, it was quite a surprise. Ranked in the 50s on most boards, the Cubs nevertheless selected the 6’1” shortstop from Stanford and signed him fairly quickly to a full slot first round value. That meant Cubs fans would be getting a sneak peak of Nico sooner than later.
6’1” 200 lbs.
So, How Has He Done to Date?
On June 26, Hoerner debuted in the Arizona Rookie League. He had a pretty good night going 2-for-3 with a double, triple, and a walk. Over the next two nights, he went 1-for-9 and found his way onto Eugene. A .250 average is not scintillating, but he also had a .400 OBP. Then again, it’s rookie league.
Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Hoerner had played three games for the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs’ short-season Class A club. He’s played two games at shortstop and was the DH for the other. In his first game, he went 1-for-4 with a HBP along with his first two strikeouts of his pro career. In game one of a Sunday doubleheader, Hoerner lit up the boxscore going 2-for-3 with a single, triple, and a run. In the nightcap, he singled, walked twice, and stole two bases impressively. His first steal was a delayed steal of second. He followed that up by immediately taking third. When he slid into third base, he jammed his pinky finger and he missed the next two games. Thankfully, there were no broken bones and he’s just day-to-day.
Afte just three games in Eugene, Hoerner was hitting .500 with a 636. OBP.
What Kind of Player Is He?
It’s a small sample size to base judgment on, but here are a few things to like about Nico so far.
For some reason, I thought Nico was smaller. He looks every bit of 6’1” and he’s already pretty chiseled. He’s not muscled-out, but you can tell he goes to the gym on regular basis. He also looks to be a pretty good athlete, too. He’s shown good speed on the basepaths and hustling to first. What I like most is that he shows good jumps on ground balls to his right and left with ease which increases his range.
2. Pitch Recognition
This must be a requirement for Cubs prospect. He knows the strike zone pretty well and routinely lays off of pitches that were close. It does not matter if it was a fastball or a breaking pitch, he’s able to track the ball all the way into the catcher’s mitt.
Every aspect of his game is very good. While I have yet to see him barrel up a ball and go yard, he does spray the ball around. He uses his speed to his advantage as a base runner and a defender. He just looks like he’s played the game for a long time. Everything comes very naturally and every decision is always the right one as a defender.
As for the Future…
There is no doubt that the Cubs picked a high-quality player in Hoerner. While six games is a little too early to tell what kind of bat he is going to have, all other attributes of his game can clearly be seen and are impressive. He plays like a veteran already. While he may not fly through the system with the speed of Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber, he should move quickly. He’s been at Eugene for just four days now, and it would be a surprise to see him there much beyond July. As a result, Hoerner will probably finish the year at South Bend. Myrtle Beach might be a reach this year, unless they are in a playoff hunt. However, I would still expect to see him begin 2019 in Myrtle Beach, regardless of where he ends this year.
One thing that could affect his future could be the play of Aramis Ademan, who right now is two levels ahead of him. It’s a good problem to have. Then again, Hoerner could play 2B as well. It should fun watching what he can do next spring in the first half.
Lead Photo of Nico Hoerner by Jared Ravich