Nico Hoerner Leads Off Cubs' Next Wave

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The Cubs carry hopes of contending for a division title in 2020 while also identifying and developing young talent for their future. That's where rookie second baseman Nico Hoerner comes in.

The Cubs' first-round pick in 2018, Hoerner made his MLB debut last September as the team needed an everyday shortstop with Javier Baez sidelined by injury. A season later, Hoerner is now in position to earn an everyday spot at second base.

Hoerner hasn't been given any assurances for his 2020 season, but the Cubs have never been shy about trusting young players in key roles.

"I've prepared myself all offseason to help the Cubs make the playoffs, win a World Series and do whatever I can to be a part of that," Hoerner said.

Hoerner, 22, posted a slash line of .282/.305/.436 with three homers and 17 RBIs over 20 games and 82 plate appearances last September. While the Cubs stumbled down the stretch run and missed the playoffs, Hoerner made a strong first impression.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein reiterated last week his intention of the Cubs competing at a high level in 2020 while also building for their long-term future. As the Cubs' top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Hoerner will be in the spotlight.

And he might even be counted on to fill the Cubs' void at the leadoff spot.

"I believe in a true leadoff hitter," new Cubs manager David Ross said. "I believe in a guy that sets the tone for the group. I've been on a lot of winning teams. When I was in Boston, Jacoby Ellsbury set the tone for us every single night. Shane Victorino hitting behind him in two hole was big.

"You have guys that get up there and set the tone as a group. You look at some of these other teams around the league that have great leadoff hitters and how they set the tone. I'm a fan of that (personally). That is something that I'm passionate about."

Hoerner understands what it would take to be the Cubs' leadoff man.

"It's a role that extends beyond yourself," Hoerner said. "Your at-bat is not only your at-bat, but it's the entire team's. Especially when you're trying to set up the entire group. So, if that's something that Ross and the front office think I'm able to do, I'll definitely be ready for it"

During his brief stint in the big leagues, Hoerner believed he reached a point in which pitchers adapted to him. For many youngsters, overcoming that hurdle is a pivotal place early in their career. Hoerner hit .259 and slugged .519 against fastballs. He hit .250 and slugged .389 on breaking pitches. 

For a promising prospect drafted to hit, Hoerner began his big league career the right way. What will this season hold?

"I'm ready to make that impact if I get that opportunity," Hoerner said.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.