Nico Hoerner May Be Looking to Generate More Power This Season

Nico Hoerner is never going to be an elite slugger, though his 50-grade raw power rating indicates he’s got more in the tank than the 9-10 he’s hit over the last two seasons. His .100 ISO last season was just five points below his career average, a mark that sits about 60 points below the league average in the same span. Solid contact skills and tremendous speed have allowed Hoerner to make up for that lack of pop, lifting him to a wRC+ of 106 and 102 in each of his full campaigns.

While that will certainly suffice for a second baseman, Hoerner may need to do a little more in the power department for a team that still has several offensive question marks. We’re not talking about doubling up his home run total or anything, just a bump to maybe 15 dingers while maintaining his other stats. If early BP sessions are any indication, that’s exactly what Hoerner is aiming to do in 2024.

At the risk of reading too much into what could be a fluke of sample size or selective observation, the swings in this video seem to suggest that he’s trying for a slightly steeper plane. Before anyone starts freaking out about launch angle — which isn’t a pejorative, by the way — making such a hypothetical tweak would be aimed at lowering his higher-than-average 47% groundball rate from last season.

Hoerner’s speed allows him to convert more grounders into hits than the average batter, but that isn’t the kind of result that remains static from year to year. The best way to find success is to hit the ball hard in the air, something Ted Williams knew 80 years ago, and Hoerner’s hard-hit percentage is further below league average (33% to 39%) than his fly-ball rate (33% to 37.5%). Catching a few more balls out front with a little more bat speed and slightly more launch would make the second baseman a more potent offensive weapon.

With a few more years left in his athletic prime, he should be able to remain in that 30+ stolen base range for a while yet. Add in the Gold Glove defense and that three-year, $35 million extension will look like highway robbery by the Cubs when all is said and done. So keep an eye on Hoerner’s hitting this spring and see if he’s really looking to put a few more balls onto the berm at Sloan Park.

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