The Cubs last World Series win may seem like a century ago to fans after this offseason. The North Siders parted ways with several fan favorites which means they’re going to have rely on new and young players to compete in 2021. Nico Hoerner will be one of those players that Chicago will be looking to. The 2018 first round pick from Stanford was brought up quickly to Wrigley Field, making his first Major League appearance in 2019. However, the Oakland native wasn’t called up until September and only played forty-eight games during the shortened 2020 season. As a result, even though he’s entering his sophomore season Hoerner has barely made more than two hundred plate appearances. Over the course of those plate appearances, Hoerner has been mostly mediocre. His major league slash line thus far is a pedestrian .247/.305/.333. Those stats are a drop from his .303/.351/.408 over three seasons at Stanford and even his .297/.365/.427 line in the minors. The capacity for production is clearly there, it just has yet to appear on the major league level. The small sample size provides Hoerner with some leeway though. Two hundred plate appearances is not even a full season and evaluation doesn’t get any easier when you throw in a global pandemic. The previous disruptions to the Head-Royce High School alum’s development make 2021 all the more important for Hoerner now. He has a difficult task ahead of him. The 6’1″ two hundred pounder has been versatile around the infield, putting in time at second, short, and third base. Unfortunately for Hoerner, shortstop is currently held down by Gold Glover Javier Baez and the face of the franchise, Kris Bryant, mans the hot corner. Ignoring the speculation around Bryant’s possible departure, that leaves second base as the most likely spot for the twenty-three year old. It’s his for the taking. David Bote is the main competition for the position. As the Cubs begin to look towards the future, the young first round pick has a clear advantage over the twenty-seven year with a .200 batting average in 2020. The opportunity will be there for Hoerner in 2021. It’ll be up to him to take advantage in his first full big league season.
The opportunity to capitalize on Nico Hoerner is present for collectors as well. After Hoerner made his twenty game debut in 2019 the average value of his 2018 Bowman Draft autograph card was $58.76. When his development appeared to stall last season, it dropped to $37.85, over a twenty dollar decline. In spite of the decline in value, sales numbers of the young Cubs have remained consistent. Collectors have purchased at least twenty of his first Bowman Chrome autograph every month of the offseason. Those numbers might be particularly high but the consistency indicates that while collectors aren’t willing to pay as much for Hoerner’s auto, they haven’t written him off completely yet. It’s not a bad gamble to make. The Cubs are at an important crossroad as an organization as they try to build towards the future while remaining competitive. They’ve already moved on from several players that helped them capture a championship five years ago and there’s more than a little noise that they are preparing to move on from more. Those moves give Hoerner the chance to prove he’s a guy the club can build around. It also mean there’s plenty of upside for collectors buying low on Hoerner now. The Cubs have one of the largest fan bases in the league who are almost loyal to a fault. Hoerner may not develop into a superstar but if he can at least play above average there will be a market for his cards. His cards may get back up to $60 range they were before 2020, but I don’t see them going higher than that. Unless you decide to add him to your personal collection I wouldn’t buy Nico Hoerner expecting a large value gain.