One of the best stories to come out of 2022 for the Chicago Cubs was the breakout Nico Hoerner had. In the past, Hoerner had dealt with some inconsistencies as well as plenty of injuries that blocked him from tapping into his true potential. Let's take a look at where the signs of improvement can continue into this upcoming season and how he can take even more steps forward for the 2023 campaign.
A Look Back On Hoerner's 2022 Season
In 2022, Hoerner managed to stay on the field for almost a full season, swinging a strong bat and playing a pristine glove at shortstop. Hoerner had a slash line of .281/.327/.410 (AVG/OBP/SLG). All of those numbers are pretty similar to what he has hit in past seasons, but the key is the fact that this was the first time in his career he played more than 50+ games.
He managed to replicate what he did in the past but do it in a full season so he became that much more valuable for the Cubs. He also managed to hit 10 home runs throughout the season which is a good sign because those power numbers seem to be going up.
Another key stat to Hoerner's 2022 campaign was that he had a 106 wRC+, which was a team-high for the Cubs. This essentially means when Hoerner is at the plate, he was creating runs for the Cubs, and that is a very important stat in today's game.
Defensively, Hoerner was the main guy in the Cubbies' infield. Not only would David Ross shift him all over the place where he would make highlight reel plays but he was one of the league leaders in outs above average. Hoerner's 13 outs above average were good enough for 12th in the league.
Projecting Hoerner's 2023 Campaign
This is a big season ahead for Hoerner, as we look to see if he can replicate the success he had in 2022. Hoerner will move back over to second base where he was a finalist for the gold glove a couple of years ago.
As of right now, you cannot really project where Hoerner will hit for this club. A lot of the projections have Hoerner batting lead-off for the team, but there is also a case for him hitting fifth (a position David Ross seems to like him at). That just goes back to that high wRC+ from last season. Hoerner would not be able to create as many runs if he was slotted into that leadoff position.
When you look at his FanGraph projections for 2023, you will see a lot of similarities to his 2022 numbers. FanGraphs is projecting Hoerner to have a slash line of .280/.335/.410 with 11 home runs. I truly do think that those numbers are valid to judge as his numbers have essentially been copied and pasted every year of his career.
I do think it is hard to judge as of right now where his home run and RBI numbers will be at the end of the season because we don't have a good judgment of where he will be hitting in the lineup. I think if he does end up hitting in the middle of the Cubs lineup those power numbers will go up a tick. The Cubs improving their offense should give Hoerner the ability to drive home more runs.
Defensively, I do not think he will miss a beat over at second base. The Cubs have put together one of the strongest middle infields in the league and Hoerner will prosper at second base, especially with the shift going away. He just brings you so much more athleticism and gold-glove defense that the Cubs have not seen from second base since he made the move to short.
If I were to make one bold prediction for Hoerner's season is that I think he will hit a career-high in home runs. If he could stay healthy for the majority of the season I think we could see him hit anywhere around 15 home runs. You saw in 2022 his power numbers go up as well as his trying to lift the ball more.
Overall, Hoerner is such an integral part of the Cubs success in 2023. Not only is he going to bring you so much versatility in the infield, but he is also that perfect bat that every major league team should want in their starting lineup. He is truly becoming a fan favorite for Cubs fans and I hope he can build on the strong season he had last year.