I ran a random number generator three times, and got 14, 8, and 5. I needed to find a prospect with a first name beginning with ‘N’ (the 14th letter of the alphabet), last name beginning with ‘H’ (the 8th letter), and in the Cubs organization (the 5th club, alphabetically). Thus, meet Nico Hoerner!
Born: May 13, 1997
Signed by the Chicago Cubs in the 1st round of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft from Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA).
Those are his raw numbers, but let’s aggregate by level, and focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:
He’s moved fast, hasn’t he? Three levels a year and the next thing you know he’s in the majors! After he signed with the Cubs, he just looked fantastic all down the line. In 2019, despite a mid-season hairline fracture of the wrist that no doubt sapped his power, he maintained the great batting eye. This guy puts the wood on the ball just about every time. He rarely strikes out.
His great walk rate has diminished as he climbed the ladder, but you can see that this is how he prefers to play the game if he can.
He showed nice speed in 2018, less so in 2019, but it’s clear that he has that in his arsenal if the Cubs wish to use it. He gets on base too.
Let’s isolate just his MLB portion of 2019:
Yes, back from his wrist injury, the power was beginning to come back, and his hard-hit rate was excellent. The strikeout rate edged up, but how could it not in the majors? His OBP was sub-par in those 82 plate appearances, and the BB/SO ration is all out of sorts for Nico. That’s what major league pitching does to even the best of prospects.
He hit righties in AA very well, but struggled against lefties. How about in the majors?
The splits are better here. His OBP was worse against lefties, but his slugging was better. And it’s just 12 plate appearances against LHP anyway.
The home runs are pulled, but the singles are sprayed everywhere, in fact, more to the opposite field.
Is his Double-A struggles against LHP something that will dog him?
Nico Hoerner was the poster child for my annual Next Year’s Top Prospects list in 2019 for BaseballHQ. Clearly I liked him, and said he would be on the 2020 Top 100 lists, and sure enough, we see above that he is consistently in the mid-40s to mid-60s on everyone’s list but Ray Butler’s (who had him at #27!).
What do the scouts like? His batting eye where his walks and strikeouts almost converge (31 walks versus 36 strikeouts in his minor league career). His power (before his wrist injury put a damper on it mid-season). His speed, if the team wishes to use it. His defense which is good enough for SS, but most people think he will end up at 2B. He has the profile of a batter who could hit .280 with 20 HRs and 15 SBs. Yes, please, thank you very much.