Chicago Cubs 2018 first-round draft pick Nico Hoerner will continue his rapid rise through the minor league system as the Cubs revealed that Hoerner will start the season in Double-A Tennessee, despite only having 14 games of official minor league experience. This is good news for Cubs fans in Eastern Tennessee and bad news for Cubs fans in South Carolina, as Hoerner will completely skip Advanced-A Myrtle Beach.
Hoerner impressed in his short minor-league debut, which ended prematurely when he suffered an elbow injury that ended his season after just four games in low-A South Bend. However, Hoerner was well enough to play in the Arizona Fall League and he thrived there, hitting .337/.362/.506 in 21 games against competition mostly from Double-A and Triple-A. That, combined with going 8-for-17 with two home runs in Spring Training, convinced the Cubs front office that Hoerner could handle the challenge of the Southern League.
The Tennessee Smokies will open the season on April 4 at home against the Mississippi Braves.
In less positive news, the feel-good story of the winter, Luke Hagerty, has taken a nasty twist as Hagerty will need season-ending surgery on his left elbow. This most likely ends his improbable comeback, but you never know.
In other news, outfielder Yasiel Balaguert, who has played in the Cubs system since 2012 and played 121 games for the Smokies last summer, has retired to become a coach for one of the Cubs rookie league teams in Mesa. Here’s hoping he reaches the majors in his next career as a coach.