Power Will Come For Nico Hoerner
Hoerner, the No. 24 overall pick out of Stanford this year, didn’t want to be in Chicago under these circumstances. The shortstop had recently felt something in his left elbow while diving for a ball at low Class A South Bend, and the medical review confirmed that he would be shut down for the season with a ligament issue.
But Hoerner could find a positive by looking at that night’s lineup and the group gathered around the batting cage. The group included fellow Cubs first-round picks such as Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ.
"Rizzo called me over and introduced me to the group and I really appreciated that,” said Hoerner, 21. "He talked about how they were in a similar position, and the Cubs obviously have a good history of first-round draft picks, specifically with the hitters.
"He also asked everyone when they were drafted and when they debuted (in the major leagues) and it was amazing to hear how fast that goes. It feels like a long way from South Bend to here. But really if you go about it the right way, you can move fast.”
Though Hoerner must rehab his elbow injury, he could jump back on the fast track to Chicago by playing in the Arizona Fall League.
Not long after finishing his final exams at Stanford, Hoerner made a splash in his pro debut by hitting .327/.450/.571 with two home runs in 14 games, primarily in the short-season Northwest League.
The Cubs believe the righthanded-hitting Hoerner—who homered twice as a college junior—has the athleticism, aptitude, bat speed and hand-eye coordination to work with their hitting instructors and maximize his launch angle. That’s a next frontier for a player Cubs officials rave about in terms of speed, mental makeup and up-the-middle defensive skills.
"I can hit for power,” Hoerner said. "Home run-wise, I’ve haven’t done a lot of that. But I think something I’ve stayed pretty true to—and I’ve gotten advice from a lot of people on it—is just learn how to hit first and the power will come.
"I never will be a home run hitter, but home runs are something that will happen as I just learn to use my body and learn the pitchers and get more comfortable.”
Patrick Mooney covers the Cubs for The Athletic Chicago