After Surprise Callup, Cubs’ Hoerner Proves A Quick Study

Nico Hoerner went from sitting on the couch back home in California—thinking he was ticketed for the Arizona Fall League—to becoming the starting shortstop for the Cubs in September.

It took injuries to Javier Baez and Addison Russell, but timing is everything for Hoerner, the first player from the 2018 draft to make his big league debut. At the end of a disappointing season that could lead to sweeping changes, Hoerner made such a strong first impression the team  will have to seriously consider making Hoerner a part of its Opening Day 2020 plans.  

“He’s clearly shown he’s able to more than hold his own on a big league field,” Epstein said. “It’s an incredibly impressive feat, stepping into the middle of a pennant race, big market, Wrigley Field, a team with a lot riding on every game. To step in and do what he’s done, I don’t think he’s quite gotten the credit he deserves for that. It’s pretty remarkable. At the same time, it’s unusual to skip a guy straight from Double-A to the big leagues.”

The Cubs are realizing that the normal timetables don’t apply to Hoerner, who got drafted out of Stanford with the No. 24 overall pick in 2018. Injuries limited Hoerner, 22, to just 89 career minor league games before his callup.

Hoerner hit .288 with three homers, 15 RBIs and a .789 OPS in the big leagues, and the Cubs believe he has the athleticism to play multiple positions and the strike-zone understanding and contact skills that have been missing from their offense.  

“I wouldn’t put anything past that kid,” Epstein said. “We can sit there now and say, ‘There are X, Y and Z developmental goals that he needs to accomplish at Triple-A, even though he’s been in the big leagues for a few weeks.’ And those could be valid, but they might not apply to him because he might have a great offseason and show up and be more than ready. We’re not ready to make that decision, but he’s a pretty special kid who brings a lot to the table for any team.”

  • At this point, it’s unclear whether the Cubs will hire one person to oversee their scouting and player development departments or make a series of moves to restructure the front office. Jason McLeod, a senior vice president, has moved into a player personnel role much closer to the big league team, where he will provide insights into the homegrown players he knows well and round out his resume for potential GM opportunities. The Cubs also want to modernize their systems in player development and have begun interviewing candidates who might offer new perspectives. 

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