Cubs Top Draft Pick Nico Hoerner Debuts with Eugene Emeralds

When a prospect debuts in Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League, there is not a lot of press there to cover it. Usually, there are not even 10 people in attendance. Playing three games in near anonymity, Cubs first round pick Nico Hoerner hit .250 with a .400 on base percentage with two stolen bases. It was a pretty unassuming start to his pro career.

Yesterday afternoon, I broke the word that Hoerner had been placed on Eugene’s roster. Lo and behold, there he was in all his tie-dyed glory later that day playing shortstop for the Cubs’ short-season Class A affiliate. Hoerner was joined on the roster by fellow 2018 draft picks Tyler Durna and Jake Slaughter.

Hoerner went 1-for-4 on the night with a single to right. He was also hit by a pitch. One would think he’d have gotten more than two chances in the field playing shortstop, but that was it for him in this one. He showed good range in making a nice play going to his left and the other assist was on a routine grounder.

What surprised me most about Hoerner was that he is a little bit bigger than I first thought, which probably has something to do with Stanford and other services listing him at 5-11. He’s not some Dustin Pedroia or Ryan Theriot clone. He’s much bigger than them.

The Cubs have Hoerner listed at 6-1 and 200 lbs, all of which appears to be lean mass that he carries well. He has a nice smooth stroke to the ball, though he didn’t really square one up in this particular game. In addition to the single and HBP, he struck out twice and grounded out to third.

Matt Dompe, the Emeralds TV/radio announcer, explained that Hoerner, Durna, and Slaughter all got off a plane just a couple hours before the start of the game. There is no game Saturday night due to a Grateful Dead concert, hence the funky jerseys, but they will play two on Sunday against the Everett Aqua Sox. That should give us a better look at the Cubs’ first pick.

I wouldn’t put too much stock in one game, but it was fun to watch Hoerner and to get some live looks at how he swings and moves, not to mention his overall demeanor.

Tyler Durna debuts for the Ems

I came away impressed with Durna, a 15th round pick, as he has a nice short stroke to the ball. He went 2-for-4 with a triple. He’s only 6 feet tall, which is a little short for a first baseman, but he made every play just fine. In the end, his bat will need to be his calling card.

Jake Slaughter, a third baseman, was originally drafted by the Cubs in 2016 but instead he chose to go to LSU. The Cubs redrafted him after his sophomore year and this time it took. Like Hoerner, he is a lot bigger than I thought. At 6-foot-3 and only 200 pounds, the 21-year-old has some room to add to his big frame. He had a decent night, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.

I’m excited to see Hoerner square one up, leg out some extra-base hits, and make more plays to his right. It’s important for a shortstop to be able to sprint down the line after a pop up, come in on a slow roller, fire a laser to first, and take charge in crucial situations.

It’s next to impossible to get all that in just one game, let alone a debut. But now that he’s got his feet wet and is with an affiliate that has their games on, we’ll get to see more of what he can do in the near future.

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