Nico Hoerner's Strong Start No Surprise To Cubs

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By 670 The Score
(670 The Score) From the day he arrived in the big leagues last September, Cubs infielder Nico Hoerner has shown he belongs.

He showcased that in an MLB debut in which he recorded three hits and has continued it in the early going of this 60-game season, impressing with a .389 batting average, five RBIs and .813 OPS in five games. Hoerner has been the Cubs' primary second baseman in starting five of the team's first six games, with Jason Kipnis starting the other one.

The 23-year-old Hoerner's strong start has come as no surprise to manager David Ross or his teammates.

"He was described as a well-rounded baseball player," Ross said. "He will put the ball in play no matter how hard somebody throws. He really has an idea of what he is doing. He can get the ball in the air. We saw him hit a sacrifice fly the other day after staying up the middle on these two-seam pitchers."

When the Cubs selected Hoerner at No. 24 overall in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft, they knew the pick was a little against the grain. That was due to the fact that Hoerner isn't a power hitter amid an era marked by the home run ball.

"When we are in the draft room, sometimes we fall in love with the skill set stuff," Ross said. "This guy brings the real grinder type of baseball mentality to our club. His baseball IQ is really high. He is such a well-rounded, great baseball player, and that is what I think we are seeing."

Hoerner hit .282 with 17 RBIs and a .741 OPS in 20 games for the Cubs last September, when he filled in at shortstop for the injured Javier Baez. Hoerner has a strong sense of self-confidence and isn't unnerved by the big league competition.

"The small sample size at the end of last year was a nice thing personally to know I can have success at this level," Hoerner said. "And the things I have always done well still work here."

Hoerner was likely ticketed for Triple-A Iowa before the coronavirus pandemic hit and halted spring training in March. The Cubs wanted to avoid bringing him along too quickly, but with the minor league season canceled amid the pandemic and Hoerner impressing with his work and attention to detail in summer camp, he made the Opening Day roster and immediately started making a difference.

"I have just been lucky from the time I entered pro ball," Hoerner said. "It's the opportunities to succeed that the Cubs have put me in. They put a lot of trust in me. I don't know if other organizations would have done that. So I am thankful for the people that have made that happen and just being in this organization."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.