The Cubs are set to call up top infield prospect Nico Hoerner, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune suggested earlier this morning that Hoerner could be in line to get the call with both Javier Baez and Addison Russell dealing with injuries. The Cubs will need to make a 40-man roster move in order to accommodate the promotion.
Hoerner, 22, was the No. 24 overall selection in the 2018 draft and is widely considered to be among the game’s 100 best prospects. The Stanford product hit .284/.344/.399 with three home runs, 16 doubles, three triples and eight steals through 294 plate appearances in the pitcher-friendly Double-A Southern League this season. Beyond the leaguewide hitting environment, Hoerner’s production in Double-A is all the more impressive when considering that he played in just 14 games below the Double-A level before being rather aggressively promoted there by the Chicago organization. He did turn in an outstanding .337/.362/.506 showing through 94 plate appearances in last year’s Arizona Fall League as well.
Currently, Hoerner ranks 40th on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list. He also checked in 47th on the midseason re-rank at MLB.com and 51st over at Fangraphs. He’s an extremely high-contact hitter, having fanned in fewer than 10 percent of his professional plate appearances, and he draws praise for his above-average speed as well. There’s some debate as to which middle-infield position Hoerner will ultimately play at the MLB level, but the Cubs have given him quite a bit more time at shortstop early in his minor league career.
Hoerner didn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, so the Cubs are being more aggressive with his service clock than they have with previous prospects (most notably Kris Bryant). Chicago, though, saw Russell go down with a potential concussion yesterday and lost Baez to a hairline fracture in his thumb a day prior. The Cubs are 4.5 games back of the Cardinals for the NL Central lead and suddenly have a mere 1.5-game lead over the scorching Diamondbacks for the second Wild Card spot in the National League, giving them even greater reason for urgency.
It seems unlikely that Hoerner will simply be in the big leagues to stay from this point forth. He’s barely a year removed from being drafted and has yet to suit up for a single game of activity at the Triple-A level. An assignment to Iowa to begin next season would make sense, though now that he’s on the 40-man roster, Hoerner has at least put himself in a position to try to force the team’s hand and keep him in the Majors. Should he indeed play his way into a long-term spot on the roster, he’d be controllable through at least the 2025 season and become arbitration-eligible in the 2022-23 offseason. That said, it still seems likelier that he’ll get some Triple-A time next season, and he’d only need to spend about five weeks there for the Cubs to push his path to free agency back to the 2026-27 offseason.