Local high school draft pick is the next in a long line of elite shortstop prospects in the Cubs system
How acquired: MLB Draft 1st round #16 overall, 2020
Gavin Lux, Royce Lewis, Jordan Groshans, Bobby Witt Jr… Ed Howard. The track record for top prep shortstops in recent years is excellent. Heading into the 2020 MLB first year player draft, many draft sites noted that Howard was “falling” in the rankings and mocks. The perception was at the time that Howard didn’t have the opportunity to show his progress leading into his senior season that other prep shortstops like Carson Tucker did, and was “losing ground”. In mock drafts, the Cubs were frequently mentioned with a bevy of college pitchers and OF Garrett Mitchell (ultimately drafted by the Brewers) and while the Athletic named Ed Howard one of the six players they believed the Cubs had zeroed in on, it still was a surprise to hear his name called at #16 by his hometown team. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising at all. Ed Howard possesses the skills to be an above average and even All-Star shortstop for over a decade in the major leagues.
I won’t dwell too heavily into the mechanics since he has been working with Justin Stone and the hitting department down in instructional league, but it’s a swing that doesn’t have a lot of moving parts. He utilizes a short rock-back and has a timing mechanism that’ll need to get ironed out. The mechanism works well in batting practice, but he had a few instances of being late on velocity in-game. The swing can get long, although in more recent footage it’s shortened up. It’s not there yet, but he’s just entering pro ball. I have seen Howard catch up to a really good fastball on the outside corner and drive it. I’m not concerned about the hit tool. It projects to be at least average. I’d bet his future projection is above-average. Fangraphs puts an above-average hit tool at .270 BA. That sounds within reach.
This is likely the most divisive projection for Howard. He looks to have put on some excellent strength and started to fill out his projectable frame during the shutdown. Without in game footage of his time in instructs, I’ll cautiously say he projects to average power (15-20 home runs), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this projection increase in the coming years in pro ball.
Ed Howard is universally recognized for his defensive chops. He can move well laterally to his left and right and possesses a projectable frame that allows him to add muscle (see above) while still looking the part of a future plus shortstop. Nicknamed “Silk” by his teammates at Mt Carmel, everything Howard does in the field is smooth. He has enough arm for SS and that can continue to improve further in pro ball.
Steals don’t appear to be a huge part of Howard’s game, but he appears to have enough speed to put up a handful a year. If anything, his speed is more important to his fielding and that’s not in question. He looks like he’ll have above average speed.
Ed Howard IV has All-Star potential as a shortstop. Being drafted by the Cubs and working with Justin Stone offers Ed Howard a strong projection to provide above-average value on offense and plus (or higher) value on defense.