Hey, forgive me if I’m hyping up Arizona Fall League play, but at this point you can’t ignore what Cubs prospect Nico Hoerner is doing at the plate down in the desert.
So, I wrote about Hoerner back in October, thinking about the possibility of the infielder making it to the big leagues as soon as 2020. Obviously he has to continue his development, but at this pace it’s not crazy to think Hoerner could follow the same trajectory as Ian Happ did. And depending how the middle infield depth shakes out in 2019, maybe Hoerner makes his MLB debut next September?
Selected 24th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, Hoerner had his first season in the minors cut short because of injury. However, he’s made up for the lost time by playing in the Arizona Fall League and the 21-year-old has taken advantage of the opportunity.
Hoerner is batting .350 through 14 games for the Mesa Solar Sox, going 21-for-60. The 21 hits rank fourth highest among all players in the AFL. Hoerner hit .327 in 14 minor league games before he went down with an injury. So far, the hit tool is there and the fielding is pretty slick too.
He wasn’t initially picked to play in the Fall Stars Game, but Hoerner won the fan vote and will play in the game on Saturday.
Your votes are in! 🗳️✔️🏆
Nico Hoerner (#Cubs' No. 6 prospect) and Ryan McKenna (#Orioles' No. 12) have won the @MLBazFallLeague Final 2 Vote and been added to the Fall Stars rosters:https://t.co/eT0lgxQqhR pic.twitter.com/SO9FqOOaYj
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 31, 2018
That game will be on MLB Network and also streamed on MLB.com at 7 p.m.
Yet, Hoerner isn’t the only Cubs prospect turning heads in Arizona.
Trent Giambrone has only played in six games, but he’s 12-for-25, with a double, two home runs, five RBIs and four walks. It’s been a great 2018 for Gianbrone, who had a .772 OPS at Double-A after only putting up a .644 OPS in 2017 in A-ball.
As far as pitching prospects for the Cubs, Erick Leal has been the biggest standout in the AFL. The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run in 13.1 innings, surrendering just nine hits and seven walks in four starts. The 23-year-old out of Venezuela has been in the Cubs organization since 2012.
Right-hander Bailey Clark has a 2.25 ERA in eight relief innings. Clark was a fifth round pick out of Duke in 2016. The righty has a 2.98 ERA in 117.2 minor league innings. In 2018, Clark had a 1.98 ERA in 57 innings at three minor league stops.