Tonight, the Chicago Cubs took Stanford shortstop Nico Hoerner with their first round pick (24th overall). A college bat in the first round? Not an unfamiliar move for this front office, who did it three times in a row from 2013 to 2015 (Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ).
To be sure, Hoerner is not an on-paper talent like those three were, and is ranked anywhere from 37 (FanGraphs) to 42 (Baseball America) to 52 (MLB Pipeline). That said, he’s a guy who has had experience in the summer playing in a wooden bat league (playing well), and can handle shortstop and second base with offensive upside.
Hoerner, a 21-year-old junior, was a three-year starter at Stanford, and hit .345/.391/.496 this year, striking out just 22 times in 232 at bats (only 20 walks, though, too). He homered twice, but had 23 combined doubles and triples, and stole 15 bases. You don’t get the picture of an elite bat here, but you do see the bones of a guy who can be a big league contributor, even a very good, above-average starter some day. That may not sound like much, but when you’re taking a high floor guy at the end of the first round, that’s about what you expect.
And this is also a guy Luke saw the Cubs potentially targeting. Here’s what he said earlier today:
My bet? The Cubs snag a slightly underslot deal with a college bat who is at risk of falling out of the first round and spend the savings on high upside high schoolers in the second round. I’ve been in on Steele Walker all year (and would be happy to have him in the system), but I’m now eyeing Stanford 2B/SS Nico Hoerner and Nevada-Las Vegas OF Kyle Isbel as well. Both have solid tools across the board, both project well defensively, both have played well in wood bat summer leagues, and both have shown a recent uptick in power.
We’ll see if the Cubs are hoping they can sign Hoerner to a deal under the $2.724 million slot value at pick 24. If so, they could then use those funds on subsequent picks – perhaps as soon as later tonight in the second round or with their compensatory picks – to take aggressive swings on harder-to-sign high school talent. I tend to think that’ll be the eventual plan.
Some video on Hoerner, and we’ll have much more on him soon: