Cubs: Nico Hoerner making it clear that he belongs with the team
By Jake Misener
When the Chicago Cubs optioned Nico Hoerner to the alternate site to open the season, I was honestly fine with the decision. I think we often forget how little time he spent in the minors – and getting more seasoning, especially offensively, seemed like it would only help the former first-rounder.
But after just two games back with the big league club, Hoerner has changed my mind. He belongs in Chicago – and needs to split the second base duties with David Bote, who could also see time at third when Kris Bryant is in the outfield.
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Given Joc Pederson is currently on the IL, there are plenty of ways to get both guys regular at-bats. Even when he returns, his struggles against left-handed pitching will make it easy for manager David Ross to mix-and-match and keep guys on the field without lengthy layoffs.
"“Being a starting player in the Major Leagues is something that’s got to be earned,” Hoerner said. “And I’ll continue to prove that. And I think the opportunity will be there if I do that.”"
A Gold Glove finalist at second base as a rookie, Hoerner is elite defensively. No one is questioning that aspect of his game. But last year, he really struggled at the dish – posting a 63 wRC+ with a .571 OPS in 48 contests.
This spring, though, a notably bulked up Hoerner tore the cover off the ball in Cactus League play, slashing .364/.396/.659 and doing everything in his power to break camp with the big league club. Instead, Chicago opted to go with a combination of Bote and veteran Eric Sogard, who signed late in the offseason, to open the year at second.
Cubs: Nico Hoerner is exactly what this team needs
Given the team’s feast-or-famine offense, Hoerner’s offensive profile is exactly what the Cubs need right now. He’s a big bat-to-ball guy and should at least mitigate this team’s tendency to live and die via the long ball. Hoerner puts the ball in play and can help Chicago manufacture some offense, something we haven’t seen with regularity in some time.
Through just two games with the team, Hoerner’s already racked up four hits – including a trio of doubles – while drawing three walks for good measure. Sure it’s two games, but the kid’s got a ridiculous 371 OPS+ heading into Sunday afternoon’s finale, in which he’ll start at second and bat seventh. He’s sending a message and I, for one, am receiving it loud and clear.