Hoerner hit .282 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 20 games down the stretch after the Cubs called upon him to fill in at shortstop for the injured Javier Baez. The promotion came just more than a year after the Cubs drafted Horner in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft and after he had just 337 at-bats in the minor leagues.
Still a rookie and with a healthy Baez firmly entrenched at shortstop, the 23-year-old Hoerner is now in line to split starts at second base with veteran Jason Kipnis in this shortened 60-game season. Fellow veterans David Bote and Daniel Descalso could be in the second base mix at times as well.
"Between (Kipnis), Bote and Descalso, we have had three guys who have had success at the position," Hoerner said Monday. "They are also good people. That makes coming here every day and improving a lot easier. With Kip in particular, he is a guy who is very open to talking about the game and sharing things he has learned and does well. He even asks me questions about certain things. I love to see a guy who has been in the league a long time still learning and trying to get better himself."
First-year Cubs manager David Ross has spoken highly of Hoerner's work in summer camp, but it isn't a surprise to him.
"The first draft meeting I took part in, Nico was our first pick," Ross said. "So in those meetings, you heard about the background and about the high baseball IQ. We heard the comments from his college coach and how he thinks about the game. I got to hang out with him a little bit when he was hurt (with a strained elbow ligament in 2018) and came to town to see the docs. I talked baseball with him and got to hear about the way he thinks about the game. I don't think any of us are surprised about his baseball IQ. He is smart, and everything is thought out. Not shocked at all."
Hoerner is settling in now in what he's viewing as essentially a second rookie season.
"Just having a whole spring training with the team and staff made it easier and more fun," Hoerner said. "Now having that sense of routine and having relationships that are a little stronger make it more fun. Relationships on the team are going to go a lot further in driving us because there are no fans, no media and not a whole lot. So the energy has to come internally. I am glad to be a part of that."