The Rundown: Cubs Surprise with Top Pick, Epstein Drives League-Wide BLM Efforts, Manfred Guarantees 2020 Season

Because the amateur baseball draft is more of a crapshoot than other professional sports leagues, it’s difficult to say any one selection is a surprise pick. Like many, I never saw the Cubs taking shortstop Ed Howard IV, so it was quite the splash. The Chicago native was a standout for Mount Carmel HS and played shortstop for Jackie Robinson West in the 2014 Little League World Series.

I originally had the young infielder going to the Mariners with the sixth pick in my mock before dropping him down to the Indians at 23 yesterday. That’s not a statement regarding any lack of faith in his talent, it’s just that Seattle and Cleveland have a dearth of quality middle infielders in their systems and could have benefited most by selecting the talented high schooler.

With the 2020 pool thin on middle infielders, the Cubs got the best shortstop in the draft (though keep an eye on Masyn Wynn, who I have going to the  Royals in the second round). Jeff Passan of ESPN really liked Chicago’s selection.

“I just got a text from a scout saying this is the best pick in the draft so far,” Passan said after Howard was announced. “[He] has enormous upside. Could play shortstop, 6-2, about 185, strong, power, really a good athlete.

“And at this point in the middle of the first-round, that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for somebody who can turn into a star. Ed Howard has star written all over him. He also has a lot longer between where he is now and to reach that point.”

I’m assuming Passan is talking about development time since Howard is just 18 years old. I still think the Cubs may regret passing on Garrett Mitchell, who went to the Brewers, and I’ll bet the Indians are disappointed Howard was off the board when they selected. They ended up taking shortstop Carson Tucker in what seemed to be a bit of a reach he has pedigree, however, as he is the little brother of Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker.

I’m not considered one of the prospects guys here at CI but here’s my take on yesterday’s first round, and I’ll link the players mentioned to scouting reports I trust (with free access):

  1. Mitchell, selected with the 20th pick by Milwaukee, and Bobby Miller, selected at number 29 by the Dodgers, will be the first round steals of this draft.
  2. Sleeper draft picks for my AL and NL fantasy baseball teams will be RHP Nick Bitsko, chosen by the Rays at number 24, and Miller. Bitsko is a beast.
  3. I thought taking LHP Garrett Crochet at number 10 was a great move by the White Sox and I had him going to the South Siders in my mock draft.
  4. I’m not sure what the Braves were thinking when they selected LHP Jared Shuster. I had him as a third round pick on my sheets.
  5. I don’t think the Cardinals will sign their top pick, 3B Jordan Walker, who has a 3.9 GPA and is committed to Duke, because I think St. Louis will offer him a bonus well below slot.
  6. It was almost excruciating to watch Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin lose a couple of his commits in the first round. I felt as demoralized for him as he looked at times, though he said all the right things.
  7. The Red Sox selected 2B Nick Yorke with the 17th pick, and though he was ranked in the 130-150 area by most scouting services, Boston reportedly loves him. I guess we’ll find out just how much by the offer Yorke receives.
  8. The Astros didn’t have a pick, but more surprising to me was the fact that nobody really made a fuss about that last night, unless I missed it.
  9. Harold Reynolds is way out of his depth talking about minor leaguers, and Al Leiter had an All-Star or HOF comp for every pitcher taken. Yikes.
  10. I hope the Cubs go heavy on pitching in the final four rounds and a couple guys I love are LHP Burl Carraway of Dallas Baptist and righty Jeff Criswell of Michigan. Carraway’s mid-90s fastball might play up because of a high spin rate and his curve is said to be MLB ready. He could potentially be a reliever in the mold of Josh Hader. Criswell sits 94-96 with his heavy fastball, mixing in an above-average slider and changeup, and already has a major league personality.

Cubs News & Notes

Find Your Inner Hero

Far from heroic but a nice gesture nonetheless, MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger revealed during coverage of yesterday’s draft that the head baseball operations official of each club is personally donating to groups supporting Black Lives Matter: the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Equal Justice Initiative, Color of Change, Campaign Zero and the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

Epstein is reportedly the driver of the initiative, for which upwards of $1 million has already been raised. You are correct if you think a more sizable donation is warranted, especially from their parent clubs. Let’s hope it’s just a start.

Apropos of Nothing

I booed Rob Manfred each time he stepped up to the podium last night. One quote by the commissioner truly had me in stitches.

Seriously, I believe Manfred said that the league intends to somewhat acquiesce (I’m paraphrasing) to the union’s demands. If that’s true, the owners have no choice now because their leader handed over a couple of yards of leverage. I’ll wait and see, but I’m almost positive he means he is going to mandate that the players return and play a schedule of the league’s choice for the prorated pay that the two sides agreed upon in March.

Odds & Sods

One thing was freakishly consistent last night and that’s that every time MLB-TV cut to a remote of a selected prospect, to a man, each was sitting middle of his sofa, aggressively manspreading like there was a territorial rights issue at play. Some were wearing shorts. As Jerry Seinfeld might say, “I don’t want there to be any chance at all that I might see your boys.”

Extra Innings

Sticking to the MLB draft theme of this post.

Sliding Into Home

Good news on the health front yesterday. I have three friends who are willing to test to see if any are a donor match for me, despite my insistence that the chosen one will have to abstain from drinking alcohol for at least a year. Living donors do not require me to be on any type of a waiting list, so the four of us are going to trek up to Madison on August 10 to see if a physiological kismet exists.

I’m not sure how insurance handles that, and if a match is found, like me, the donor will lose significant time off (up to six months) from his/her job. I may make another heavy push on my GoFundMe account if a match occurs. Keep your fingers crossed for me, this is the most positive news I’ve received in quite some time.

Also, I am not the guy who broke into Miller Park to carve my name into the outfield grass. I’m bored in isolation, but not quite that bored.

Out of Left Field

Though it has since been deleted, which is Twitter’s version of redacting a statement, this horrifying take by Bob Nightengale reeked of tokenism.

They Said It

  • “I’ve hired a black scouting director, [a] farm director in the past, but the majority of people that I’ve hired, if I’m being honest, have similar backgrounds as me and look a lot like me. That’s something I need to ask myself why. I need to question my own assumptions, my own attitudes. I need to find a way to be better.” – Theo Epstein
  • Theo said he could not figure out how to get to sleep. It was on his mind so much, that there was change he could do and start. He started contacting all the different friends that he has and it morphed to all 30 major league teams that he was able to reach the GMs and come up with this idea to really start to implement change.” – Harold Reynolds

Thursday Walk Up Song

Welcome to the Machine by Pink Floyd – Amid all of baseball’s current unrest, the draft has been a nice respite. But there are some serious labor obstacles on the horizon, so that warm, fuzzy feeling of normalcy is not without a dark cloud or two in tow.

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