David Ross Strongly Hints That Nico Hoerner Will Be the Cubs’ Leadoff Hitter This Year
Not that you couldn’t already start to discern it from the lineups so far this spring, but you can’t assume that just because Nico Hoerner has been leading off in Cactus League games that he’ll be leading off in the regular season. Sometimes, that placement is just about getting guys at bats.
Then again, the rest of David Ross’s spring lineups so far have definitely had a “this could be real” vibe to them, so I am not surprised to hear Ross more or less confirm that Hoerner will be the Cubs’ leadoff hitter to open the season:
That might be the first time I’ve heard a manager say a guy is right for the leadoff spot because of his readiness for that day’s game, as opposed to something about his style of at bat. It’s interesting – can that really set the ton for everyone else, irrespective of offensive ability?
Here’s the thing, though: there’s not really any other obvious guy, so it’s fine.
Is Hoerner a prototypical leadoff hitter? Not necessarily. You could say Hoerner tends to be a high-contact guy who doesn’t take a lot of walks. He’s not overly aggressive, but he’s also not up there seeing 5+ pitches every plate appearance. He’s got decent speed, but he’s not a burner. He’s a good hitter, but not necessarily one of the Cubs’ best. So on and so forth.
But, if not Hoerner, then who? You want the first hitter to at least be one of your better hitters, but guys like Seiya Suzuki, Dansby Swanson, Trey Mancini, and Cody Bellinger all have reasons why they don’t make sense. The only other guy I could even suggest would be Ian Happ, but he also doesn’t quite fit the mold, AND I understand wanting to have some lefty power somewhere after the top spot.
Hoerner is a good hitter. He’s adaptable. He is a gamer. Moreover, he keeps getting better, so maybe he does wind up getting a little boost in the walk rate this year, and, paired with his generally high average, you could be looking at a guy with one of the better on-base percentages on the team. Sounds like a fine leadoff hitter to me.
Oh, and for the record: Nico Hoerner’s career .333 OBP is better than league average (.312) by a healthy margin.