Cubs: 3 biggest takeaways from the team’s first 21 games

Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nico Hoerner / Cubs
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Cubs need Nico Hoerner in the starting lineup from here on out

Nico Hoerner did everything in his power this spring to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. Instead, after batting a robust .364/.396/.659 in 48 plate appearances, the former first-rounder was optioned to the team’s alternate site in South Bend.

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But following the injury to Joc Pederson, Hoerner is back with the Cubs – and is making the most of his opportunity. He was so impressive over the weekend that manager David Ross penciled him into the leadoff spot for Monday night’s game against the Braves.

He worked tirelessly this offseason to re-tool his swing – and the results speak for themselves. Despite a real lack of minor league experience, Hoerner has shown he’s ready to not only compete at the big league level, but appears to be a front-runner to seize a starting role at second base.

Given the massive turnover that’s coming for this roster in six months’ time, Hoerner establishing himself as a key presence in the lineup is key for Chicago. Assuming David Bote handles third base next year should Bryant depart in free agency, Hoerner immediately becomes your everyday second baseman.

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You can’t say he’s ready to be an All-Star based on a three-game sample size. But, when paired with what he did this spring, you can be confident that Hoerner isn’t the same guy who struggled so badly at the plate last year.