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Theo Epstein unsure if Nico Hoerner will start 2020 in Chicago

Nico Hoerner, Cubs

For the Chicago Cubs, their first season under new manager David Ross is going to be a big-time testament to how their next five years or so will go. While Ross is a fan favorite and played for the Cubs during their most recent World Series run, that can only take him so far when he is trying to manage a team.

How he and the front office handles stud shortstop prospect Nico Hoerner is going to also determine how well this season goes too, as Hoerner figures to become a key cog in the Cubs 25-man roster moving forward. Even as the rookie went from not playing baseball in September to helping the Cubs fight for a playoff spot (and ultimately failing at it).

Having only been born in 1997, the 24th overall selection from the 2018 draft out of Stanford University has flown through the minors at an incredible pace, pushing the hands of the Cubs to get him regular playing time, which he same in a small sample size in 2019.

Across 82 plate appearances and 78 at-bats, Hoerner hit three home runs, 17 runs driven in, and at a clip of .282, which is quite impressive for being thrown into the thick of it as soon as he was brought up to the big leagues. With injuries to both Javier Baez and Addison Russell, Hoerner was forced into action and he made the most of it in the small timeframe that he was given.

For 2020, at-bats may be a bit hard to come by with the current roster construction, unless the rumored move of shipping out franchise cornerstone Kris Bryant happens, which would then move Baez over to third base full time and open up the starting role for Nico Hoerner at shortstop. If not, Hoerner’s experience playing shortstop, second base, center field, and other outfield roles will help him as a super utility player, similar to the type of role that Ian Happ has produced in so far with the team.

If the Cubs want to compete in 2020 and try to make it back to the postseason in Ross’ first season, then Hoerner needs to firmly be in this team’s plans going forward. Whether in a starting role or in a bench role, Hoerner is a player that deserves and needs to hold a 25-man roster spot moving forward.