The Cubs have officially added Nico Hoerner to the active roster, making him the first member of his 2018 MLB draft class to make it to the bigs. He will start at short and bat sixth for the Cubs Monday night in San Diego. The 22-year-old batted .284 with a .743 OPS and three homers in 294 plate appearances that Garfunkled (just ask Joe Maddon) a two-month layoff for a fractured wrist. He did his best work late, though, batting .333 with a .782 OPS.
The idea of Hoerner being a September call-up wasn’t entirely foreign back in spring training, when he hit .471 with a 1.609 OPS and six extra-base hits in limited action with the big club. That came after an abbreviated debut campaign in which the Cubs saw enough to make him the first of their prospects since Kris Bryant to be assigned to the Arizona Fall League so quickly.
Hoerner was actually scheduled to go back to the AFL again this season to catch up on the time he missed due to injury, but other injuries changed those plans. Javy Báez has a fractured thumb, Addison Russell just got hit in the face with a pitch and could be placed on MLB’s concussion IL, and Iowa Cubs shortstop Dixon Machado is also dealing with an injury.
Zack Short was another option, but he really struggled down the stretch at Triple-A and doesn’t have quite the same cachet or ceiling as the Cubs see in Hoerner. The expectations for this debut should be kept to a minimum, but it’s not at all beyond comprehension that Hoerner could shine just as he did in Mesa. Everyone raves about his maturity and he comes across as unflappable, so the jump shouldn’t be a problem for him.
If things shake out to where the Cubs make the playoffs and are still without the services of either Javy or Russell, there’s even a way for Hoerner to make the postseason roster. While players typically have to be on the 40-man roster prior to September 1, a team can petition the Commissioner’s Office for an exception to replace an injured player who has been on the IL for at least the minimum required duration.
The Cubs will cross that bridge if and when they come to it, but they had to make a more immediate move to clear that spot on the 40-man in the first place. That meant designating lefty Randy Rosario for assignment after a disappointing campaign that didn’t live up to his performance in Chicago last season.