Chicago Cubs: Could Nico Hoerner force team’s hand in 2019?

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(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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Nico Hoerner, the Chicago Cubs’ 2018 first round draft pick, could become the team’s next prospect to make his MLB debut shortly after being drafted.

Since arriving in Chicago, Theo Epstein and Co. have mad a habit of drafting hitters with the Chicago Cubs top draft picks.

From 2012-15, the Cubs front office selected Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ, respectively. In addition to being first-round draft picks, Bryant, Schwarber and Happ share another commonality as well.

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College hitters for the Cubs

Bryant (University of San Diego), Schwarber (Indiana University) and Happ (University of Cincinnati) all were drafted following their college junior seasons.

After not having a pick in 2016 and drafting two pitchers in 2017 (No. 27 and 30, overall), the Cubs returned to their roots in 2018, drafting Stanford shortstop Nico Hoerner with the No. 24 pick.

Hoerner’s debut professional season was cut short due to a ligament sprain in his left elbow. The injury was unfortunate considering the start he experienced at the plate.

In 14 games, Hoerner hit .327 with two home runs and a 1.021 OPS. He walked nine times in 49 at-bats, an impressive count compared to his four strikeouts.

Recent Cubs debuts telling

The Cubs promoted Hoerner to Single-A South Bend before the injury, where he hit safely in all six games played. Based on the histories of Bryant, Schwarber and Happ, it is plausible to think Hoerner’s big league debut is not too far away.

Bryant made his MLB debut in 2015, less that two years after the Cubs drafted him. Schwarber’s debut (June 16, 2015) came a little more than a year after the Cubs drafted him. Happ (May 13, 2017) made his MLB debut 23 months after the Cubs drafted him.

Hoerner was drafted lower than the aforementioned hitters, but being drafted out of college counts for something. He is more refined than, say, an 18-year-old drafted out of high school.

Debut on deck?

With that being said, it isn’t far-fetched to think that Hoerner could make his big league debut in 2019 or 2020. MLB.com projects him to debut on the North Side in 2021, but he could force the issue if his 2019 offense picks up where it left off in 2018.

This is not to say that Hoerner would not struggle if the Cubs promoted him (or even in the minors in 2019). Kyle Schwarber (.178 batting average in 68 games pre-All-Star Break in 2017) and Ian Happ (167 strikeouts in 142 games in 2018) are prime examples of this.

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And yet, Hoerner is the Cubs’ No. 6 prospect (according to MLB.com) for a reason. Like Schwarber and Happ before him, if he is hitting, the Cubs will find space for him in the big leagues.

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