Chicago Cubs should be preaching patience with Nico Hoerner

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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Despite playing well following a late-season promotion, the Cubs need to give Nico Hoerner the time he needs to finish developing in 2020 and beyond.

Whether or not Nico Hoerner is on the team’s 25-man roster come Opening Day remains to be seen. Chicago has a pretty glaring need at second base, but there are still months to go in the offseason and Theo Epstein may address that need via trade or in free agency.

If he decides to allocate resources elsewhere (like center field or the pitching staff) instead, the Cubs could stay internal, letting guys like Robel Garcia and David Bote battle it out for the starting job in camp next spring. But there’s just no sure answer when it comes to whether or not Hoerner will get the majority of reps at the position in 2020.

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"“We haven’t figured that out yet,” Epstein told The Athletic (subscription required). “I think you can make strong arguments on both sides, whether he should be part of the club on Opening Day or (get) a little bit more seasoning. I think a lot will depend on what else we do (this winter). What type of spring training he had might be a factor as well. But we’re not at the point where we’re ready to make that decision yet.”"

The Cubs’ top prospect made a big first impression, but definitely experienced his ups and downs in his first taste of big league action this summer. Hoerner hit .282 – but only drew a trio of walks (5.6 percent) in 82 plate appearances.

Still, he struck out only 12.7 percent of the time – a promising sign, especially for an organization that’s struggled in the contact rate department. As Chicago looks to develop a lineup that’s less prone to feast-or-famine tendencies, Hoerner will undoubtedly play a critical role in the years to come. The only question is whether or not that begins in the spring.

People tend to forget – Hoerner never played at Triple-A Iowa. That’s a big leap, going from Double-A to Major League Baseball. I personally have trouble believing Epstein will allow the former Stanford standout to forego that important development. Last year was the exception, not the rule.

"“It’s important that player development continues at the major-league level,” Epstein told The Athletic (subscription required). “These days, it’s becoming a younger players’ game. If you look around baseball, the best teams have young players dominating. Yes, it’s not linear. There’s going to be regression at the major-league level. But our players have had some real regression that’s taken a while for them to dig out from, so that’s something we have to solve.”"

As Epstein noted in his comments, more and more young players are dominating the game today. We saw Juan Soto put the Washington Nationals on his back and lead them to their first World Series title as a 20-year-old, finishing ninth in National League MVP voting.

Next. Three possibilities when it comes to Hoerner in 2020. dark

Now, I’m not saying Hoerner is Soto – the latter is a generational talent. Now, who knows. Maybe Hoerner will be that in the future, but he’s not there yet. The first step will be 2020. We’ll see Hoerner alongside Javier Baez up the middle at some point next season. The only question is when Chicago will make the move and make the Friendly Confines his home for good.

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