Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez is one of the preeminent superstars in Major League Baseball, and will likely remain a fixture in Chicago for some time.
But the 27-year-old’s magnetic personality and talent did not stop the Cubs from selecting the hometown kid in the first round of the 2020 MLB draft.
The Cubs took shortstop Ed Howard out of Mount Carmel High School (IL) with the 16th pick, giving them one of the most sure-handed infielders in the entire class. And Chicago has wasted little time in signing its top selection.
Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago reported the 18-year-old will receive a $3.7455 million signing bonus, which puts him at slot value.
The Chicago native obviously has longstanding ties to the Windy City. Howard grew up in the southern suburbs of the city, becoming a star for the Jackie Robinson West team that was subsequently engulfed in controversy after winning the U.S. title during the 2014 Little League World Series.
But Howard was undeterred and made a name for himself as one of the top prospects in the country while at Mount Carmel. He hit .377 in his sophomore year before following up with a .419 average in his junior campaign, per MaxPreps.
Keith Law of The Athletic ranked Howard 15th on his “Big Board” leading up to the draft, lauding his hands defensively while also noting his good bat speed. Patrick Mooney of the same online publication noted the Cubs will hope he can accompany that bat speed with a preferred launch angle to generate more power.
Howard has the makings of an elite defender, and—if he can hit in the minors—should be able to progress through Chicago’s farm system relatively quickly.
Yu Darvish Gives Bullpen Analysis
Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish maintains a residence in Evanston, Illinois, but he has remained at the team’s training facility in Mesa, Arizona during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 33-year-old has shared clips of some of his bullpen sessions throughout baseball’s suspension, but he gave a more specific breakdown for his Twitter followers this past Saturday.
Darvish showcased the changes he has made to his split-finger fastball, saying he has added more revolutions so as to add more movement. He also expressed his eagerness to throw the pitch against live batters.
While the Japanese star contends he reached 94 mph with the splitter last year, Baseball Savant had his average velocity at closer to 89 mph in 108 events. It does he appear he added revolutions, though, as his splitter had a spin rate of 1,438 revolutions per minute in 2019.
In any case, he could be that much more effective if he can command the pitch to both sides of the strike zone.
Cubs fans are hoping Darvish will be the same guy he was during the second half, when he posted a 2.76 ERA and had 16.86 strikeouts per walk. He also ranked third in skill-interactive earned run average (SIERA) during that span, per FanGraphs.
Chicago’s aging staff needs a true ace in a shortened season, and Darvish’s bevy of weapons could help him become the dominant anchor at the top of the rotation.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.
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