Cubs stay home with draft pick, select Mount Carmel shortstop Howard
The Cubs already have one of the best shortstops in the game -- Javier Baez.
Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down baseball, Baez was wondering about his future on the North Side. He's eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, no matter what happens this year.
"It's up to them," Baez said. "When the right deal comes, we'll be ready for it. We'll see."
Having a replacement ready just in case Baez moves on makes sense for the Cubs, and they addressed that possibility Wednesday night.
With the No. 16 overall pick in the draft the Cubs selected a local product, Ed Howard.
Even though his senior season at Mount Carmel High School was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, Howard is a well-known talent and a terrific get for the Cubs.
"We're ecstatic," said Dan Kantrovitz, who is in his first year as the Cubs' director of amateur scouting. "No doubt, this has been a challenging year on a lot of fronts. But for our draft to start with having the opportunity to select Ed Howard with our first pick, it was literally our best-case scenario and we couldn't be more thrilled."
Howard feels the same way.
"It's a surreal moment," he said. "I'm excited to be a hometown guy, I think it's special, it's unique. I'm ready to take on that challenge, have fun and play my game."
The 18-year-old Howard batted .421 with 11 doubles, 4 triples and 3 home runs in 35 games as a junior for Mount Carmel last year.
He was a 2020 preseason All-American by Perfect Game and the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder played in last year's Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.
Keeping it local, Howard was the starting shortstop on the 2014 Jackie Robinson West Little League Team that advanced to the finals of the Little League World Series. He also played in the White Sox's ACE (Amateur City Elite) program.
Kantrovitz wasn't able to see Howard play this season, but he'll never forget a Zoom call he had with the prep phenom.
"I noticed Ed adjust himself sitting in his seat," Kantrovitz said. "I saw something on his left hand and it looked a little strange. I recognized it was actually a glove. He was literally wearing his baseball mitt.
"It wasn't something I think he expected us to notice or see. The moment I realized he was wearing his glove and just chomping at the bit to get on the field and take ground balls and play, we knew he had the intangibles we were looking for.
"He's got an electric skillset. He's a plus shortstop, he's got pop in his bat, he can run, he can impact a game in so many ways. We think he's got a chance to be a star."