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Cubs Opinion

Nico Hoerner’s Debut is Just the Beginning

Nico Hoerner's debut shows a glimpse of what he will bring to the table, both for the playoff push now and in 2020 and beyond.

A prisoner-of-the-moment reaction to Nico Hoerner‘s debut, a 10-2 drubbing of the Padres in which he starred, isn’t all that logical given both the state of this 2019 squad as well as the tempered expectations of the Cubs’ top prospect. While he’s widely considered a top 100 prospect, with some outlets having even more favorable projections, and while he certainly maintains a skill set and intangibles this team has lacked much of the season, Hoerner remains less of a savior and more of an emergency. Hoping against hope that he can provide any semblance of stability is all the Cubs have left at shortstop.

But goodness, the (impossibly) early returns are promising.

Perhaps lost in the magic of his three hit night, swatting two singles and a triple while tallying four RBI, Hoerner fielded the six-hole with aplomb. He made several plays early in the game, ranging from the routine to the moderately difficult, and looked natural doing so:

The Spark the Cubs Desperately Needed

It’s not every day that a road team’s fan base overwhelms the home crowd with chants of their top prospect’s name. It’s also not every day that a team with this much talent — and the promise of a franchise record fifth consecutive playoff appearance — is so desperate to find any semblance of hope. Hoerner’s performance last night provided that immediate boost to a Cubs squad without Javier Baez for at least the month of September, backup SS Addison Russell pacing through the concussion protocol, and a general lack of energy following an embarrassing weekend in Milwaukee.

No one expects Hoerner to replace Baez, in either production or energy, but he’s precisely the player the Cubs need to fill-in while the heart of their team recovers from a thumb injury. I mean, look at this kid as he completes his two run triple:

What can be said of Hoerner is that he’s likely to be a much better replacement for Javy than that of Russell, whose play this year has lacked urgency, awareness, and overall productivity. That he remained on the Cubs’ roster after last season will always remain puzzling, and his performance on the field this year should be surprising to precisely no one.

This Kid is For Real

Bleacher Nation collected several snippets of the team’s reaction to Nico, both his performance on the field and his general disposition as a ball player and teammate. Of those reactions, my favorite is from Kyle Hendricks, who had a pretty solid night himself last night (5 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 1 BB):

“It’s huge, it just brings a whole different energy. It lifts the whole ball club up. We were so fired up for him in the dugout. It’s just awesome to see somebody come up and perform, have a game like that right out of the gate.”

Listen, it’s probably not ideal that this Cubs team needed the energy and absurd debut from their 22 year old top prospect as the pennant chase reaches its climax. It’s also not ideal that for every glimpse of optimism this team has shown these past few months, they remain barely in reach of the NL Central title (four games back) while clinging to a two game lead for the second wild card slot. Alas, here we are.

No one wants to travel to Washington to face Max Scherzer in an elimination game. Unfortunately, that’s the Cubs most likely destination this October — and I’m willing to bet that it is going to happen.

And you know what? For everything that’s happened this year, for all the angst of Cubs fandom, from peculiar roster moves to general apathy regarding the team’s play, a fifth straight playoff appearance would still be pretty damn special.

And if Nico Hoerner energizes this team and manages to help the Cubs get there? What a sweet way to begin the promise of a very nice career.

Follow Austin Bloomberg on Twitter for more Cubs news and opinion.

Featured Photo credit: Denis Poroy, Getty Images

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Austin is the Lead Cubs Writer for The Loop Sports. He's a lifelong baseball junkie (due to his father) and as a former college pitcher has a particular affinity for the art of pitching. Austin loves to commute in Chicago on his bicycle, and enjoys camping and canoeing as often as possible. He attained his master's degree in Social Justice and Community Development from Loyola University Chicago in 2014.

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