by Gabe Herz, Intern
For the next installment of Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox alumni spotlight, I’ll be focusing on Nico Hoerner, a member of the 2017 Red Sox team. Following a subpar freshman year at Stanford which saw him hit just .254/.298/.311 across 54 games, Hoerner broke out in his sophomore year, slashing .304/.355/.397 in 58 games, finishing in the top five in the Pac 12 in both hits (77) and doubles (18). Hoerner sought to build on this big sophomore year and took to the Cape that summer, with the goal of improving his draft stock and helping the Red Sox defend their championship.
Over the course of that summer, Hoerner not only built on his big sophomore season, but solidified himself as one of the top collegiate baseball players and a potential early round draft target. In 40 games, Hoerner slashed .300/.356/.456, led the team in hits, runs batted in, and walloped a team leading six home runs in 160 at bats, after hitting just one in 460 at bats at Stanford. His .813 OPS, which was boosted in large part to the amount of home runs he hit, was 50 points higher than his previous season’s number at Stanford. Hoerner’s bat, along with his stellar defense at second base, and baserunning (15 steals) helped lead Y-D to a playoff appearance. Although they came up short, Hoerner continued to impress in the playoffs, collecting a team leading four hits across 13 at bats during the 3-game series.
Following his tremendous summer with Y-D, Baseball America ranked Hoerner the 17th best player on the Cape during the 2017 season, noting that his strong play caught the eye of professional scouts around the country. In 2018, the 21 year old Hoerner returned to Stanford to solidify his position as a top 60 pick in the MLB draft. Hoerner put together his best season to date, slashing .345/.391/.496, with 25 extra base hits, 15 stolen bases, and very few strikeouts. Going into the draft, Major League Baseball had Hoerner 52nd on their top 200 big board, giving him above average ratings for both his Hit and Run tool. His defense was graded at an average level, largely due to the fact that he was listed as a shortstop, a position many thought he would move off of at the next level. Despite this ranking, Hoerner was selected 24th overall in the First Round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the defending champion Chicago Cubs.
Because of his advanced age, Hoerner spent not even a full season in the minor leagues before getting called up to the Cubs in 2019. In a small 20 game sample, Hoerner impressed, hitting .282/.305/.436 with 3 homeruns and 17 runs batted in in just 78 at bats. Still retaining rookie status, Hoerner entered 2020 as the Cubs starting second baseman and the 51st best prospect in the MLB. In the pandemic shortened season, Hoerner, like many other Cub players, struggled to find his swing. In 126 plate appearances Hoerner hit just .222, but behind the scenes showed improvement, by raising his walk rate six percentage points, and increasing his hard hit percentage by nine percentage points. Nico also showcased his premier defense, accumulating 5 defensive runs saved at second base in just 208 innings, which would equate to 29 runs saved in a full season. Hoerner showcased his versatility, too, playing not just second, but third, shortstop, left field, and center field.
In the beginning of 2021, Nico came out of the gates hot, hitting .389/.500/.556 over his first 11 games. His versatility has been on full display, playing not only stellar defense at second base, but making appearances at shortstop, left and center field. Unfortunately, he was placed on the injured list last week, but upon his return, has all the makings to continue his breakout campaign, and solidify himself as a cornerstone player for years to come in Chicago.