Cubs pick Ed Howard, local Little League World Series star, in first round of MLB draft

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

The Chicago Cubs went local with their first round pick in the 2020 MLB draft. In the process, they brought a remarkable story full circle.

With the 16th overall selection, the Cubs drafted Ed Howard, a shortstop out of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Howard has already starred on a big baseball stage. He was among the star players on the Jackie Robinson West All-Star team that won the United States championship at the 2014 Little League World Series.

A then 12-year-old Howard showed his poise under pressure. In the U.S. championship game, Howard was called upon to record the final outs on the pitching mound. He responded by starting a game-ending 1-6-3 double play.

Though Jackie Robinson West would lose the World Championship game to South Korea and subsequently be stripped of its United States championship for reasons that had nothing to do with the players, that moment provided a lasting memory for Chicago baseball fans.

Howard has since parlayed his skills into a standout career at the high school level. Though there was no high school baseball in Illinois this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his ability had already vaulted him into elite prospect status. He was viewed as a first-round player in virtually every evaluation and in every mock draft, but few predicted he would land with the Cubs.

Top high school shortstop in MLB draft

Howard was the fifth high school player selected in the 2020 MLB draft. He was the first prep infielder selected. Rightfully so considering that scouts view him as the top shortstop prospect among high school players.

During his junior season at Mount Carmel, which was his last full season on the field, Howard hit .421 with three homers, 11 doubles and four triples in 35 games. That earned him an opportunity to participate in last summer’s Perfect Game national showcase in Arizona. This spring, he was named a 2020 preseason All-American by Perfect Game.

The accolades don’t get any bigger for a high school baseball player.

According to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Howard is now the first Illinois high school position player to be drafted in the first round since Jayson Werth in 1997.

Grew up a Chicago White Sox fan

The next time Howard puts on a Cubs hat won’t be the first, but he recently admitted growing up more of a White Sox fan in the south suburbs of Chicago.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Yeah, I was a Sox fan, and I went to more Sox games because it’s closer to home,” Howard told the Sun-Times prior to the draft. “But I like both teams, honestly. I think it was getting out there that I’m just a diehard Sox fan, but the reality is I like both of them. I liked the Cubs having their run, playing in the playoffs [and winning the World Series in 2016] things like that. I’m just a fan of baseball.”

Howard also participated in the White Sox Amateur City Elite (ACE) program, which aims to pull Chicago youth away from inner-city dangers and provide them with opportunities to grow and succeed as people first and developing baseball players second. That makes Howard’s selection a special moment for the entire city of Chicago and an especially proud one for the White Sox.

Cubs pick local Little League World Series star Ed Howard with 16th overall pick in 2020 MLB draft. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Howard’s future outlook

The Cubs already have an elite shortstop in Javier Báez. But between Báez's versatility and Howard's upside, the Cubs will certainly find a way to get both on the field if that becomes a possibility. 

Howard will need some time to knock off the rust and develop his all-around game, but his 80-mph bat speed puts him in a good position to succeed right away from a hitting perspective. He will be one of the most interesting players to watch develop from this draft.  

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