Nico Hoerner made his Major League debut in September 2019 out of necessity due to injuries. In a shortened 2020 season, he made the Cubs roster with another chance to prove himself.
So far, the Chicago Cubs’ Nico Hoerner has not been too impressive in 2020. He has a 64 wRC+ with a .235/.319/.256 slash line, along with a 54 percent ground ball rate. He hits a fly ball just 21 percent of the time, and of those fly balls, 15 percent of them are on the infield. One encouraging aspect of Hoerner’s game is that he hits the ball hard 36.5 percent of the time, per Fangraphs.
Throughout the season, Hoerner’s at-bats have been taken by David Bote and Jason Kipnis, and his starts have become sparse, which certainly can’t help his development.
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Hoerner, perhaps not being ready for the Major Leagues full-time isn’t exactly unexpected. He came to the Majors with only 375 plate appearances in the minor leagues and never played above Double-A. Growing pains should be expected, and there is no other option other than the Major Leagues to give him reps right now.
Hoerner’s last appearances in back-to-back days were November 1st and 2nd. He finished a game against the Pirates and started the next night. He has played in 34 of the team’s 44 games, and only started 24 of them. So, not only has his development been rushed, he is not getting enough consistent chances to play and prove himself. According to baseball-reference, over the last 14 days, Hoerner has only received 24 plate appearances.
Hoerner was drafted in the first round by the Cubs with the 24th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Expectations were high, and he was the type of bat the Cubs were missing. He made contact and didn’t strike out much. He was the first player from his draft class to make the Major Leagues.
One concern of Hoerner’s performance right now is the lack of power. He has no home runs and has a .259 SLG. He has two doubles out of nineteen hits, and that does it for his extra-base hits. Last year in one month, he hit three home runs, one double and one triple. He had more extra-base hits in 20 games last season than he has in 34 games this year. He is never going to be a big-time power hitter, but he has to be at least better than that.
Sophomore slumps do happen, but it’s hard to call this a sophomore slump during a 60-game season and when he hasn’t played a full Major League season yet. Hoerner’s skillset plays well in today’s contact-less baseball. He makes contact and doesn’t waste any pitches at the plate. He can handle high velocity, which practically every pitcher throws these days.
He has potential, and the skills are there; the Cubs haven’t helped with his development, they rushed him, and now his starts are dwindling. They need to figure it out and let him see if he has it on his own.