The Rundown: Nico Hoerner 2020 Report Card, Lester Wants to Buy Everybody a Beer, Rizzo Could Be on Free Agent Bubble, La Russa Inks Deal With White Sox
I believe that Nico Hoerner has been one of the more overrated prospects the Cubs have had since the days of Brett Jackson, and though I know a lot of Cubs fans love him, I just don’t understand why. To be fair, he’s only played 68 games with a total of 208 plate appearances, so the second baseman is still a baseball seedling. But the Cubs signed Jason Kipnis last year and are rumored to be interested in Tommy La Stella this winter, so it’s not like the front office is fully committed to handing Hoerner the keys to the car and eliminating his curfew.
He’s had some big hits to start his career, though. Who could forget his home debut in 2019?
Stepping in and stepping up.@nico_hoerner had a Wrigley Field debut to remember. #EverybodyIn pic.twitter.com/4EpfoTnArN
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 16, 2019
Still, the 23-year-old has played enough that we have at least seen some trends start to develop. Per FanGraphs, his career wRC+ is 72, his wOBA is .281, and though he makes decent contact (82.5%), he has a lowly 0.6% barrel rate. In 2020, he had just four doubles and did not hit a home run. But it’s not all bad.
For a guy whose offensive palate has yet to fully mature, Hoerner showed improved plate discipline in 2020. His walk rate increased to nearly 10% and he stopped chasing balls out of the strike zone, which is remarkable for a player his age with limited professional experience. It would be unforgivable not to mention that Hoerner had just 337 minor league at-bats before the Cubs called him up at the end of 2019.
Defensively, however, he was brilliant, providing fantastic glove work at the keystone and handling shortstop quite well when needed. That work earned Hoerner a Gold Glove nomination, which this year was based solely on defensive metrics. The young infielder even got some playing time in the outfield, so his versatility is a plus. But with a lack of power, his career trajectory might relegate him to being nothing more than an extra infielder, one who gets 300-325 at-bats while giving the regular infielders a day off now and then.
Though he certainly still has time to develop, it’s doubtful the front office will send him back to Triple-A. That means he’ll have to make his adjustments as a big league player, not the easiest task. I have my doubts, but Hoerner is young enough to prove me wrong.
- Final Stats: .222/.312/.259, 4 XBH, 0 HR, 13 RBI, 3 SB, 63 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR, 0.7 UZR
- Final Grade: D+
Cubs News & Notes
- Javier Báez won the Fielding Bible Award as the game’s top shortstop. It is the fourth such award for El Mago, who finished third in baseball this season in Defensive Runs Saved (7) and fourth in Outs Above Average (4) among shortstops.
- Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported that La Stella, who played for the Cubs from 2015-18, “appears to be on the team’s radar again” heading into the free-agency period.
- Catcher Willson Contreras is a finalist for a Gold Glove Award, and improved framing skills earned him that nomination.
- COVID-19 has really wrecked the team’s finances and Theo Epstein may be faced with making an unpopular decision regarding Anthony Rizzo.
- Rizzo is the only current player who has played on both a 100-loss and 100-win Cubs team.
- Among eligible free agents, re-signing reliever Jeremy Jeffress could be Theo Epstein’s biggest priority in the coming weeks.
- Add VP of player personnel Jason McLeod to the list of Cubs’ executives who may be a fit to fill one of the front office openings in the Angels’ organization.
Odds & Sods
76-year-old Tony La Russa is back with the White Sox and all I can think about is he and Steve Stone talking about hanging out at Jilly’s on Rush back in the mid-1980s. Hey, it worked for Harry Caray.
Endorsement deals rolling in for new Sox manager pic.twitter.com/3z5oTT7iwW
— Mickey Canter 🌻💫💀 (@MEdwardCanter) October 29, 2020
The Tigers are said to be close to hiring AJ Hinch as their next manager, and an announcement could come sometime this weekend, if not today.
It appears the White Sox inadvertently used Hinch’s signature when announcing the hiring of La Russa.
There are a lot of mixed feelings regarding La Russa’s return to the South Side.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio deflected questions Thursday about whether he wants to block the sale of the Mets to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen.
The Yankees have declined their options on outfielder Brett Gardner and starter J.A. Happ.
Brian Cashman said New York will be picking up the $14 million option for reliever Zack Britton.
The Cardinals are expected to cut payroll significantly in 2021 and that their primary focus will be to retain their own free agents, including Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.
Outfielder Ryan Braun is now a free agent after the Brewers declined his $15 million option for 2021.
Relievers Robert Osuna of the Astros and Brad Hand of the Indians are also free agents after having their 2021 options declined by their respective teams. I’d love to see the Cubs sign Hand.
After declining the $3.5 million option on starter Kendall Graveman, the Mariners re-signed the 29-year-old for $1.25 million to be a reliever.
This year’s World Series drew the lowest ratings ever for the Fall Classic. The six games on Fox averaged a 5.2 rating, 12 share, and 9,785,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The previous low was a 7.6 rating, 12 share, and 12,660,000 viewers for the Giants’ four-game sweep of the Tigers in 2012.
Jon Lester doesn’t sound like a guy who fully expects to be back with the Cubs in ’21.
Regardless of what's next I want to thank the fans for the past 6 years. So this weekend (10.30-11.1) Im buying y’all my favorite beer. Make a res at @Hopsmithchicago @LodgeTavern @ButchMcGuires @ShenannigansHOB & your 1st @MillerLite is on me. Just tell em to put it on #JonsTab
— Jon Lester (@JLester34) October 30, 2020
They Said It
- “Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started [with the Red Sox]. But, I’ve got a little time before I really have to sit down and weigh that decision, even if it’s something where they want me back. Hopefully, I’m still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people. We’ll see.” – Jon Lester
Friday Walk Up Song
Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith – Thanks, BDJ!