Must-Read of the Day: How the Cubs Wound Up Picking and Developing Nico Hoerner

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Must-Read of the Day: How the Cubs Wound Up Picking and Developing Nico Hoerner

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs’ top in the 2018 MLB Draft was, as many of the other first rounders of the current front office have been, a college position player. Drafting down in the 20s, though, the Cubs were not going to be able to select a college bat from among the choice group that everyone had atop their draft boards. So, when they went with Stanford shortstop Nico Hoerner, it wasn’t a surprise that he was seen as a “reach” by many, with his consensus draft ranking much lower than the 24th spot where he was selected.

But here’s the thing about this front office and drafting position players: they have so much credibility that, when they take a guy like Hoerner at 24, it immediately makes others believe they may have been missing something on him all along.

Sahadev Sharma writes today about the scouting win that may well have been Hoerner’s selection last year by the Cubs, and it’s the kind of thing that could warm you up today:

I love reading the deep behind-the-scenes work that goes into scouting a guy like Hoerner, and the slow burn process that is sticking with him as a possible high pick. And when, as his junior year went on, the Cubs realized that their research and development crew were seeing – in the data and analytics – the same things that the scouts were seeing with their eyes, that’s when it was time to lock this young man in as the pick. Notably, despite the lack of pre-draft hype, the Cubs weren’t sure they were going to be able to get Hoerner at 24.

Sharma’s article focuses even more on Hoerner’s post-draft development process, and how the Cubs worked with him not to make sweeping changes, but rather allowed him to mostly be himself with small tweaks. The best quote comes from Hoerner, himself, who perfectly sums up how poorly understood the launch angle revolution has been: “Never in my life have I wanted to hit ground balls. I don’t see it as a revolution. You want to hit home runs from the day you’re born. But it’s about understanding my body.”

There is no one-size fits all approach to getting the most power out of a player, and not every body is going to be the right fit for whatever it is you were hoping to do. I love that he embraces that already.

That Hoerner already understands this concept in tandem with the Cubs working with him to unleash a little more natural power? In a guy who already has such excellent natural bat-to-ball skills? Yeah, I could absolutely see him being a guy who develops enough power to not only knock a few homers down the road, but also to allow his contact skills to play. We’ve seen it time and again with great “batting average” prospects in the low minors – as you move up to the upper levels, when the pitching is better and the defense is better, if you aren’t striking the ball with authority in the air, that batting average is going to tank (and you also won’t net any walks thanks to pitchers being perfectly happy to challenge you). You’ve got to hit for some “power” in order to maximize the rest of your offense.

It’s going to be a lot of fun to see what Hoerner can do this year in his first full season of professional ball. He’s already made that first big adjustment well (i.e., using wood bats successfully), and now it’s time to start facing more advanced pitching (High-A, perhaps?) and grind out a full season.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.