Why Nico Hoerner is Cubs' most certain cornerstone


The next time the Cubs play a postseason game, who else will be in the starting lineup with Nico Hoerner?

Christopher Morel and Nick Madrigal? Maybe. Seiya Suzuki? Probably. Ian Happ? Who knows?

One thing that seems certain is Hoerner, who’s putting together a strong season at the plate and in the field, will be there.

“As far as who's going to be here, it’s hard to predict those things,” Hoerner said. “It feels like I haven't been here that long. And even when you look back, obviously, to the roster when I was here in 2019 to now, it's a very different place. 

“That rapid turnover is a part of our game, but obviously there's been a more extreme turnover here.”

As the Cubs rebuild for the second time in a decade, their competitive timeline is uncertain, as is who will or won’t be on the “next great Cubs team.” 

Willson Contreras is expected to be traded before the Aug. 2 deadline. Even Happ, who’s putting together an All-Star caliber season, is only under club control through 2023.

Meanwhile, not only is Hoerner putting together a breakout campaign, but he’s under club control through 2025.

That might make him the Anthony Rizzo of this rebuild.

“Personally, I think one of the coolest things you can do as a player is to be there from beginning to end of the changing of the roster and onto the next great team,” Hoerner said. “I think that'd be about as cool as it gets in a career. 

“What that looks like, I don't know. But I'm just taking it day by day.”

Hoerner entered Wednesday hitting .304/.338/.422, and that was before he smashed a two-run double in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to seven games — tied for a career-high.

After multiple injuries sidelined him for extended stretches in 2021, he’s played in 60 games so far this season, also a career high.

Defensively, he’s third in baseball and first among shortstops in Outs Above Average, after the Cubs handed him the keys to the position this season.

"Playing the complete game is something I take a lot of pride in," Hoerner said. "My favorite players growing up always did it.

"The guys that I admire now do it as far as just playing all facets of the game well, as well as being a good teammate, and growing into somewhat of a leadership role at some point, hopefully."

Hoerner isn't the only potential cornerstone on the current roster. The Cubs signed Suzuki to a five-year deal last winter to be part of this transition and that next era. He’s still getting acclimated to the big leagues and has missed a month with a finger sprain.

Morel has shown impressive flashes but has only played one month in the big leagues. Madrigal, who’s hit entire life, has had a down start offensively this season while missing time to injury.

For all the questions about the Cubs roster going forward, Hoerner has emerged as a stable piece

“Nico has definitely established himself as a piece and a really good big leaguer,” manager David Ross said. “I think that just his growth on a daily basis stands out, the questions he asks there as he wants to improve still and trying to still go through a season. 

“He's doing a really nice job of holding down our middle infield and being as consistent of a player as he's ever been. It's been nice to see him kind of put his flag in the ground and [say] ‘I'm here to stay.’

"It's been nice to see his growth for sure.”

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