The Cubs selected Nico Hoerner at No. 24 in the 2018 draft because they saw potential that exceeded the appraisals of most other evaluators. He has proven them right so far, performing well at the plate and in the field while wowing coaches and teammates alike with his approach to the game. When the Cubs made him just the second first-year player (Kris Bryant was the other) in the Theo Epstein regime to be assigned to the Arizona Fall League, the writing was on the wall for a fast track through the system.
In fact, many believed he could skip high-A Myrtle Beach altogether despite accumulating only 17 plate appearances at low-A South Bend and 60 total plate appearances in a 2018 season that was abbreviated by a wrist injury. And as Cubs Insider learned Thursday morning, Hoerner will indeed be assigned to Double-A Tennessee to open his first full professional campaign.
Source: As expected, top Cubs prospect Nico Hoerner will skip high-A Myrtle Beach and will open season at AA Tennessee.
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) March 28, 2019
It’s an aggressive move, to be sure, but Hoerner has already shown that he’s comfortable handling new challenges and the Cubs have never been shy about fast-tracking top position players. That philosophy is now being applied to pitchers as the Cubs seek to address an organizational deficiency, but it’s also come under fire in light of Kyle Schwaber’s developmental struggles and Ian Happ’s recent demotion.
Putting Hoerner in Tennessee is proof that the Cubs believe he’s ready to face the minors’ best pitchers, since the double-A level typically features the best raw stuff. It may also allow him to better built confidence in his burgeoning power, since Myrtle Beach and the Carolina League in general can be tough on young hitters. And unlike some of his predecessors, Hoerner’s presence isn’t required in Chicago. The Cubs can really take their time with him and allow his adjustments to take place organically, though that doesn’t mean they’ll hold him back if he forces them to promote him further.
One promising prospect who won’t be starting at Tennessee is righty Alex Lange, who will return to Myrtle Beach after posting a 3.74 ERA in 23 starts there last season. The Cubs should officially announce these and other assignments in the near future.