The most exciting event in baseball since pitchers and catchers reported was the opening round of the MLB Draft Wednesday night. The Cubs, whose intentions had not been clear in the least, used the 16th selection to take local shortstop Ed Howard from Mt. Carmel High School.
Though his name mainly sounds familiar because, well, it sounds familiar, Howard starred on the Jackie Robinson West team that competed in the 2014 Little League World Series. That squad energized the city in a big way and now Howard has the chance to stay close to home with the Cubs.
Likely ETA: 2023-25
The first thing you notice about Howard is his athleticism and fluidity. He’s very smooth on defense and his bat gets through the zone quickly. He doesn’t get a lot of lift and the power is more projectable at this point, so the Cubs will likely work on his swing they way they have done with recent picks Nico Hoerner and Brennen Davis. Howard is far from a finished product but he has all the right tools to help get him where he needs to be.
“We’re ecstatic,” Cubs VP of scouting Dan Kantrovitz said after the pick was made. It was literally our best-case scenario.
“This is a guy that he’s a plus shortstop. He’s got pop in his bat. He can run. He can impact a game in so many ways and we think he’s got a chance to be a star.”
Howard’s frame suggests he has significant potential to increase his power numbers and he’s performed well against other elite-level players in his age group. As obvious as it seems, that is sometimes an under-reported part of scouting. Howard appears to have great makeup and sticking with a hometown team, even though many had pegged him as a White Sox target, can only help matters.
It’s hard to sit here and judge Howard as an 18-year-old because by the time he’s ready, he could be 3-5 years older. The thing to keep in mind here is that the Cubs picked an exceptional athlete who plays a premium position. He has good size and Kantrovitz said the plan is for him to stick at shortstop. The Cubs are almost certainly going focus on developing the bat, as the defense looks that it can take care of itself.
Ed Howard (@ehowardIV) throwing up a last-minute reminder for interested teams on his IG story 👀💪
He’s our top-ranked SS entering the draft.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) June 10, 2020
If I was to slot Howard on prospect list right now, he would probably be at the back end of the top 10 with a shot to move up quickly as he develops more strength and experience. That’s not a knock on Howard, it’s a testament to the young talent in the system right now. Howard’s athleticism and makeup are very intriguing and the Cubs clearly felt lucky to have him fall to them on Wednesday night.
The draft is exciting no matter what, but it’s even more so in the sports vacuum we’re all floating through. Here’s to hoping we get baseball back soon and can watch as Howard shows why the Cubs saw fit to draft him.