Cubs have their hometown kid in first-rounder Ed Howard

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.

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.

Next: Ranking the best first-round picks of the last 25 years

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“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.”

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