Heralded Chicago Cubs prospect Nico Hoerner earned himself a promotion to open the year, skipping High-A and opening the year at Double-A Tennessee.
It looks like the Chicago Cubs have their number two prospect on the fast track to the Major Leagues. Late last week, the organization announced that Nico Hoerner would skip High-A ball at Myrtle Beach and start the season at Double-A Tennessee, in what will be his first full professional season.
With this decision, the Cubs are certainly showing a ton of confidence in their young 21-year-old shortstop. Less than a year ago, Hoerner was the Cubs first-round draft pick (24th overall) in the 2018 amateur draft. Since then, in minimal playing time due to an injury, all he has done is impress, as he’s quickly ascended through the Cubs minor league system.
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After being drafted, the young infielder only played 14 total games with the Cubs minor league affiliates in 2018. He briefly played Rookie ball before moving on to Single-A where he split time between Eugene and South Bend. In those 11 games at Single-A, Hoerner hit .351 and posted a .466 OBP. He recorded 13 hits and two home runs before his season was cut short due to an elbow injury.
Hoerner then rehabbed and played in the Arizona Fall League where he was named an All-Star. In his 21 games, he faced much better competition but continued to impress. He hit the ball all over the field to the tune of a .337 batting average and a .362 on-base percentage.
Hoerner then received an invite to Spring Training and continued to turn heads. According to Theo Epstein, his strong performance played a big role in their decision to promote him.
"“It’s an aggressive placement, but we feel he’s a very mature kid in both in the way he plays the game and the way he handles any adversity thrown his way,” Epstein said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “We feel he’s ready and prepared for it. He stands out for how advanced and mature he is. We had a feeling he was going to be ready for it, just seeing how he handled himself in big-league camp, and that sealed it.”"
In his first spring, Hoerner appeared in 14 games this spring and gave a glimpse of what he can do at the plate. The Chicago Cubs prospect posted a .471 batting average while recording eight hits and one home run. Although it’s a small sample size, in his 18 plate appearances Hoerner showed some tremendous plate discipline by not striking out once.
Hoerner on a similar path as current Cubs stars
Starting in Double-A Tennessee less than a year after being drafted by the Cubs is quite an accomplishment by Hoerner. However, he’s hardly the only Cub to ever do so. Both Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber took the same route on their way to the major leagues.
Bryant was drafted by the Cubs in 2013 and he started the 2014 season in Double-A. Drafted a year later in 2014, Schwarber accomplished the same feat, starting the 2015 season in Tennessee. Schwarber actually even took it one step further and reached the major leagues in his 2015 season.
As far as Hoerner goes, making it to the big leagues this season doesn’t seem to be in the plans. For developmental reasons, he is expected to spend most of, if not the whole season at Double-A Tennessee. with the possibility of being promoted to Triple-A Iowa later in the season.
Even with that said, I know there will be people out there who think that Hoerner can or should make it all the way to the majors this season. For me, I just don’t think it’s likely. In order for Hoerner to actually reach the majors, I believe some crazy scenario would have to present itself.
Maybe Hoerner rakes at both Double and Triple-A and a call-up in inevitable. Maybe the Cubs have a surplus of injuries leaving them in desperate need of a shortstop or second baseman. If either or both of those were to happen, maybe, just maybe I could see him getting the early call to the big leagues.
Aside from that, based on his current trajectory, a reasonable expectation for fans would be to see Hoerner sometime in 2020.