Manager David Ross today confirmed what I think a lotta folks were suspecting about the tentative plan at second base to open the season, with each of Jason Kipnis and Nico Hoerner in the mix for starts.
Ross says Hoerner and Kipnis are his two main options for second base. Raves about roster's flexibility and how that will help him move other pieces around.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 18, 2020
It’s clear that Ross and the Cubs are still predominantly viewing David Bote in more of a utility role than as an option to start at second base, though it’s not hard to make the argument that he’d actually be the best on-paper starter of the group. We don’t know what Kipnis has left, and we recently reminded folks about how little pro experience Hoerner has. Bote is going to get time this year, one way or another. (Daniel Descalso, also unmentioned, was never seriously in the mix for starts out of the gate after his very down and very injured 2019 season.)
That said, maybe Kipnis will be sufficiently reinvigorated with his new digs, and some of the weirdness underneath his production the last three years will sort itself out. It’s not hard to imagine him being an above-average overall option at second base, especially against righties.
For Hoerner, we know longer-term upside is the greatest among this group. So long as the Cubs don’t lose sight of the need to help him develop this year, and so long as his extreme forays outside the strike zone don’t crush his performance too quickly early on, then I say yeah, sure, get him in the mix and see what sorts out. We want him to win the second base job in the long-term, but let’s keep in mind that it could still be an up-and-down road.
Second base gets a lot of attention because it’s one of the few spots on the roster where the “starter” isn’t obvious, but the Cubs do have at least three could-wind-up-quite-solid options. Moreover, as they coordinate with each other and various injuries inevitably happen, this doesn’t necessarily have to become a situation where having several “could be” guys is worse than having one “merely adequate” starter. Let things evolve, mix and match as necessary, and then if one guy clearly takes off, roll with him.