Nico Hoerner is *THE* Chicago Cubs Starting Shortstop

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Nico Hoerner is *THE* Chicago Cubs Starting Shortstop

Chicago Cubs

To the extent there was any question about roles in the Chicago Cubs’ middle infield, David Ross has made it very clear: Nico Hoerner is the starting shortstop. Period.

There was a time not so long ago that we expected a timeshare at shortstop between Hoerner and Andrelton Simmons for a variety of reasons. You always hoped that Hoerner could show the ability to be at least average defensively at shortstop, be healthy, and be good enough at the plate that you just had to let him run with it. What wound up happening was much, much more than I expected: Hoerner looked really good defensively at short. And, with Simmons injured to start the season, Hoerner absolutely grabbed that shortstop job and ran with it. By the time he was hurt in a fluke collision with an umpire, there was no question in my mind that he was now the “starting” shortstop.

Still, with Hoerner out, with Simmons returning, and now with Hoerner coming back, I was very glad to hear Ross confirm the situation.

“Nico has proven that he can play big-league shortstop pretty consistently already in this season,” Ross said, per The Athletic. “Let’s see what happens at the end of the year and assess there. It’s easy to say you can be a big-league shortstop long term, but you also have to do it. You have to prove it. Sixty games is a lot different than 162. That’s a big wait-and-see on the big-picture stuff, but we’re going to have our best chance to win with those two guys up the middle. We’ll move them around a little bit, but Nico will be starting shortstop.”

In other words, the default at the moment will be Hoerner starting at shortstop, with Simmons (and others) rotating in at second base, and as needed at shortstop for resting Hoerner.

Not only is that the way it should be for this season from a competitiveness standpoint, but it is also clearly what needs to happen for longer-term evaluation purposes. As Ross said, you want to be able to assess how things went at the end of the year. I’ll add what went unspoken: the Cubs need to know what they have in Hoerner as a shortstop for the next several years, because it could impact just how aggressive they are in yet another strong shortstop free agent class (Trea Turner, Carlos Correa (opt out), Xander Bogaerts (opt out), Dansby Swanson). That is not to say the Cubs would decline to pursue one of those guys SOLELY because of Hoerner – there are ways to make it work, of course – but instead it could help you know the best way to handle those pursuits.

Also? You want to see if Hoerner can keep developing at shortstop. He’s still young enough and has limited big league experience – who’s to say he can’t get even better at the margins with more reps?

Here’s hoping Hoerner suffers no aftereffects from the ankle injury, both defensively and in terms of the rhythm he was in at the plate (the results don’t reflect how good he was looking). I really want to see him play as much as possible this year, and give us all a nice long look at what Nico Hoerner, Starting Shortstop would really be like.

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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.