With the 16th overall pick of the MLB draft on Wednesday night, the Chicago Cubs took prep shortstop Ed Howard. Beyond the usual reasons, the pick is notable because Howard is local product out of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.
Howard is already a familiar face on the Chicago baseball scene because he was a core member of the Jackie Robinson West team that enthralled the nation by making it to the finals of the 2014 Little League World Series, where they fell to Korea. Jackie Robinson West was eventually forced to vacate its accomplishments after Little League Baseball determined that it used players from outside of its defined district.
Howard grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and was a White Sox fan and participated in the White Sox's ACE program, or Amateur City Elite. Despite his Sox fandom, Howard recently told the Chicago Sun-Times that "I like both teams," so he'll surely have no reservations about switching his loyalties to the crosstown Cubs.
As for his on-field chops, Howard's already a standout defender who figures to stick and thrive at the position of shortstop long-term. "In my 21 years as a head coach in Illinois, Ed Howard is the finest shortstop I have seen in this state," said Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry on the occasion of Howard's winning Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year honors for 2020. "He's a humble, hardworking young man who just keeps getting better. His skill set is extremely advanced for our level and he has a realistic chance at a long career in professional baseball."
Here's what our own R.J. Anderson wrote about him in his pre-draft rankings:
Howard isn't just the best bet among prep players in this class to remain at shortstop, he's arguably the purest shortstop to come along in years. He has all the attributes that scouts look for defensively: a strong arm, soft hands, nimble footwork, and an innate feel for the position. Howard's offensive value is tougher to peg. The hope is that he can add power as he fills out his lanky 6-foot-2 frame, but there's a chance his bat plays light. (It doesn't help his stock that he's from Illinois, a cold-weather state, either.) Nonetheless, the wide berth granted by his secondary skills should permit Howard to go early in the draft to a team looking for a potential starting shortstop.
Anderson ranked him No. 19 overall.
No doubt, Howard is excited about the possibility of playing in Chicago, but first the Cubs must sign him away from a baseball scholarship to the University of Oklahoma.