If I’ve learned anything about Major League Baseball over my few years of experience covering the sport professionally, it’s that it’ll humble you … again, again, and again.
And by humble, I mean Make you look like a damn fool on Twitter …
N ot playing
C hicago this year,
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 6, 2019
Good call, chump …
Obviously – given the news this morning – I was very wrong about that prediction on Friday, but, hey, it wasn’t a crazy take at the time. As a matter of fact, it took some pretty extreme circumstances afterwards – news of Javy Baez’s hairline fracture (Saturday) and Addison Russell’s concussion after getting beaned (Sunday) – for the opposite to come true. I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed that the Cubs would be without both Baez and Russell for the foreseeable future, but here we are. Extreme circumstances. Maybe I should’ve considered that possibility.
But it’s also more than that.
The Cubs don’t have many other options right now (Zack Short? Dixon Machado?), but I had assumed they’d do whatever it took to avoid risking any developmental issues (i.e. early promotions for top prospects out of short-term need at the big league level and at the expense of long-term development).
We’ve seen time (Addison Russell) and time (Kyle Schwarber) and time (Ian Happ) again how an early call-up to Chicago to fill a need can risk longer-term development. It’s always a balance to get that very real bump in the short-term, but again, it’s a risk. And, in this case, make no mistake: this is an EXTREMELY quick call up, even by Cubs standards.
Minor League PAs Before Promotion
- Kyle Schwarber: 621 PAs
- Jorge Soler: 622
- Kris Bryant: 773
- Ian Happ: 978 PAs
- Addison Russell: 1,087
- Javy Baez: 1,350
- Albert Almora Jr.: 1,788
- Willson Contreras: 2,132
Nico Hoerner … Just 375 Plate Appearances(!)
Hoerner has barely half the professional plate appearances of any other recent prospect promotion, and, with the exception of Kyle Schwarber, he’s the only one of these players to be called up to the big leagues in the year immediately after his own draft – that just does not happen often in baseball.
And, sure, Hoerner was a college bat who played in the Arizona Fall League and got time at big league camp during the Spring, but so did Bryant, Soler, Russell, Schwarber, and Happ (among other top prospects) before they were called up to the big leagues. So no matter which way you slice it, this is truly unprecedented speed in both time and experience to reach the big league level.
One difference between all of these players and Hoerner is that Hoerner is not necessarily expected to be quite the same level of an impact bat as Baez/Schwarber/Soler/Bryant/Happ etc. were all expected to be, while his defense up the middle (SS, 2B, and even some CF) and speed are both excellent, to say nothing of his off-the-charts makeup. So there is a little less risk in exposing him sooner than his peers, but still … this is pretty nuts, and it speaks to the Cubs’ belief in Hoerner’s ability to handle this.
Once Hoerner injured his wrist early this year on a HBP and missed a couple months, there’s just no version of reality where this front office planned or wanted this promotion to happen this season. After all, most of the players on that list above were forced back into the Minor Leagues to continue their development even after finding success at the big league level. But the Cubs are facing injuries to their two primary shortstops in the middle of a playoff race, and, with their backs against the wall, they were forced to tap on a young player drafted just last season with fewer than 400 professional plate appearances to fill in.
It’s crazy, but hopefully it can at least be fun.
At this point, I’m not itching to get back into the prediction game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hoerner begins the 2020 season back in the Minor Leagues before being called up early on in the season no matter what happens this September/October. But who knows … maybe he’ll come up and look so good he’ll force the Cubs hands … again. That’s what I’m rooting for anyway.