With all the issues the Cubs have been having at second base, one wonders whether their problems would’ve been solved if not for one errant pitch. Back in mid-April, top prospect Nico Hoerner took one off his wrist that resulted in a hairline fracture and changed his season. He sat out for two full months, missing valuable development time that could’ve put him in line to make it to Chicago this summer.
Back in April, Hoerner was playing shortstop and driving the ball with authority, batting .300 with a .391 on-base percentage. He looked to be on the fast track to a possible September call-up, maybe sooner if he could maintain his torrid pace. But things don’t always go as planned.
Once healed, Hoerner played some rehab games in Mesa before getting back to Double-A Tennessee on July 4. Even though he hit a home run and a triple on his second night back, it’s been a rough go overall. Wrist and forearm injuries can take a long time to heal, especially for hitters, as Cubs fans saw when Derek Lee went down in 2006. It’s all about regaining strength and bat speed, getting back the feel for the swing.
That appears to be the case right now for Hoerner, who’s hitting .225 since returning to the Smokies. He’s walking at about the same pace and his strikeout rate is actually a little below what it was in April, it’s just that the hitting is taking some time to come around. It’s almost as if he’s going through spring training again.
Which leads us to today’s big question: Should Hoerner play in the Arizona Fall League again to make up for lost time?
The answer to that is more complicated than you might think. At first, the most logical answer would be an enthusiastic yes. He missed 60 games, so making up 40 of those in the AFL against the same competition that he would have faced at Double-A would be a good developmental fit.
On the other hand, no pun intended, the best option might be to take appropriate time off to fully heal. He can start it back up again at instructs right before spring training and be fresh for 2020.
Regardless of the decision, Hoerner is definitely in the mix to be an everyday guy in Chicago next summer. He’s going to go to spring training with the big league club in Mesa and he’ll see playing time throughout March. This injury has not changed how Cubs management thinks of him, it just pushed things back a little bit for this year.
Barring any unforeseen developments, seeing Hoerner in a Chicago Cubs uniform looks like a matter of when rather than if. And getting back to the form we saw prior to the injury could mean sooner rather than later next season.