In first-rounder Ed Howard, the Cubs see a future franchise cornerstone.
Theo Epstein knew who he wanted when the Cubs came up in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft – Ed Howard, a local prep infielder who, despite it raw age, garnered high praise from scouts around the game.
As a junior at Mount Carmel High School, Howard put up some impressive numbers, hitting .421 with 11 doubles, four triples and three long balls in just 35 games. Drafting a high school talent was a change of pace for Epstein, who hadn’t selected a prep player in the first round since way back in 2012, when he took outfielder Albert Almora.
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But given the upside Howard possesses, there was no way not to take the 18-year-old standout. We’re talking about a guy who definitely has the talent to make an impact someday at the big league level.
Chicago hopes he can be part of the next era of Cubs baseball – one that faces high expectations following in the wake of the Joe Maddon era, which culminated in a World Series title and four consecutive postseason appearances – including three-straight NLCS berths.
"“I was looking forward to it. I wanted to be a hometown kid,” Howard told MLB.com. “I’m excited it’s with the Cubs. I think that’s a great organization. I watch a lot of Cubs games, follow them, know a lot of their players and things like that, so I’m excited to be a hometown guy. It’s special.”"
Watching Howard develop and work his way through the farm system will be a bit of a new experience for Cubs fans. We’ve grown accustomed to watching the team’s first-rounders blow through the minors before arriving in the Windy City and almost immediately making some sort of impact.
The latest example of this? 2018 first-round pick Nico Hoerner who, barely a year after being drafted out of Stanford, got the call to the bigs in the wake of injuries to both Addison Russell and Javier Baez. Hoerner slashed .282./.305/.436 in 20 games, despite having a mere 89 career minor league contests under his belt and headed into 2020 as Baseball America‘s 40th-ranked prospect, by far the Cubs’ highest talent on the list.
It’s not just Hoerner’s performance that will put the pressure on Howard. We’re talking about a lengthy run of first-round talent leaving their mark on the club, including Almora, former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP Kris Bryant, slugging outfielder Kyle Schwarber and switch-hitter Ian Happ.
The road will undoubtedly be a little longer for Howard, who’s made it perfectly clear: he’s ready for any and all challenges that lie ahead of him. For Epstein, the pick was as much about the person as the player – and the former Jackie Robinson West star checked all the boxes.
"“The first thing, you start with the human being,” Epstein said recently. “Anytime you’re taking a chance on a high school kid in the first round, you want somebody that you can trust. You want somebody with character and with work ethic and with maturity, because it’s a long road from being a high school senior to being an impact player in the big leagues.”"