State of the Cubs: Where roster stands at shortstop in 2022 and beyond
With the lockout over and Spring Training kicking into gear, the focus shifts to the Cubs’ roster. Jed Hoyer, Carter Hawkins and the rest of the front office still have some holes to fill before the first regular season game on April 7.
We break down the organizational depth chart at each position post-lockout and what to expect in 2022 and beyond.
Next up: Shortstop
1. Andrelton Simmons
2. Nico Hoerner
3. Sergio Alcántara
4. Ildemaro Vargas
5. Dixon Machado
Shortly after the lockout ended, the Cubs quickly moved to fill one of the most important vacancies on the roster. The addition of Andrelton Simmons immediately gives the team necessary depth at shortstop.
While rumors continue to swirl surrounding the team’s possible pursuit of Carlos Correa, Simmons brings security and an elite glove to the middle of David Ross’ defense. Over the last 5 seasons, Simmons has dwarfed the rest of the league’s shortstops in terms of Defensive Runs Saved, posting +79 in that category, 21 ahead of the next closest player (Nick Ahmed – 58). Only Correa (20) sported a higher DRS than Simmons (15) in 2021.
The 32-year-old Simmons won Gold Gloves in 2013-14 and 2017-18 and took home the league’s Platinum Glove honor in 2013.
Over his 10-year career with the Braves, Angels and Twins, Simmons has a .265/.313/.369 slash line (.683 OPS) and has routinely been one of the hardest players in the league to strike out (a sparkling 9.5% K rate). He struggled at the plate in 2021 (.558 OPS) but had a .281 average and .730 OPS combined in the previous 4 seasons.
Simmons’ slick glovework will be a welcome sight for a Cubs rotation (Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, Wade Miley, Alec Mills) that induces a lot of groundballs.
His arrival also frees up Hoerner to move around the field and fill whatever need manager David Ross has on a given day. Think of Hoerner as the 2022 version of Kris Bryant, who played all over the place before the trade deadline last season. Hoerner has only made 33 big-league starts at shortstop and actually notched a majority of those starts (17) as a rookie in September 2019.
Health is also a major factor, as Hoerner missed more than 100 games last year due to injury and new second baseman Nick Madrigal has battled injuries early in his young career.
Between the three players, Ross has options up the middle and could also keep players fresh by utilizing Madrigal or Hoerner at DH on occasion. Plus, Hoerner can play outfield and third base.
“We’re really happy with our middle infield right now,” Hoyer said Monday. “Obviously, we brought in Simmons and he is an elite defensive shortstop. Certainly with our pitching staff, that’s something that was critically important. We have a lot of confidence in Nico playing shortstop. He’s also an elite defensive second baseman. Couldn’t have been more excited to trade for Madrigal.
“With Nick and with Nico having some injuries last year, we’re definitely aware of [the fact] 162 is probably not gonna gonna happen. So we have three middle infielders we have a ton of faith in and I think almost like on the pitching side, we’ll continue to add depth and give Rossy options of how to move guys around.”
It remains to be seen whether Hoerner will settle in at shortstop long term or if the Cubs feel like he would be more valuable to the organization in a utility role. Simmons’ deal is only for the 2022 season and it will bear watching if his offense can rebound from last year.
Regardless of what position he plays, the priority for the 24-year-old Hoerner is availability. He was on the IL three separate times in 2021 with hamstring and forearm injuries in addition to an oblique issue that ended his season prematurely.
When he’s been on the field, Hoerner’s well-rounded skillset has been apparent. He makes a lot of contact, runs well, plays above average defense and works tough at-bats.
He has not flashed much power in his brief MLB career (3 homers in 112 games) but he has been stellar with runners in scoring position, batting .390 in 103 plate appearances. Hoerner is even better with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, sporting a .460 average.
Simmons is an upgrade for the Cubs’ overall defense and a necessary addition to the depth chart at shortstop. Hoerner will be a part of the team’s long-term equation at the position but his versatility is a major asset.