With no games being played, and the 2020 baseball season in doubt, Major League Baseball took a pause from contentious negotiations with its players to look to the future, as the 2020 MLB Draft took center stage in an otherwise empty sports landscape on Wednesday night.
Both Chicago baseball teams looked to infuse new talent into their organizations during the first round of the MLB Draft, hoping that the players chosen could make an impact on their respective big clubs in the not so distant future.
White Sox Take LHP Crochet, Cubs Take SS Howard With Top Picks
The White Sox, with the 11th overall pick, selected University of Tennessee left-handed pitcher, Garrett Crochet, adding talent and depth to the organization’s already strong pitching ranks.
Five picks later, at number 16, the Cubs created the buzz of the evening in Chicagoland by choosing shortstop Ed Howard, the local kid made good out of Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago.
“I’m excited to be a hometown guy, I think it’s special, it’s unique,” said Howard during his introductory conference call with Cubs beat reporters. “I’m ready to take on that challenge, have fun, and play my game” Howard continued.
Cubs Pick of Ed Howard Brings a Jolt of Excitement to the Northside Fan Base
The pick of Howard is sure to generate excitement with Cubs fans, who have been looking for some positivity after back-to-back disappointing seasons on the field and off.
The Cubs blew a late division lead in 2018 and wound up losing to the Colorado Rockies at home during the National League Wild Card game. 2019 saw the Cubs miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014, ending a five-year post-season run.
Off the field, the Cubs have had their issues as well. Most notably with the Kris Bryant years of service grievance, and the rollout of the Cubs new team-owned regional sports network, The Marquee Network. The network was roundly booed during the Cubs Convention in January when team owner Tom Ricketts mentioned it by name. Many fans were unsure if their television providers would even carry the fledgling network, or if they did, how much extra would it cost. More recently, Ricketts has come under fire for comments stating 70% of team revenue is derived from day-of-game receipts, a figure many are questioning.
The selection of Howard, however, gives the Cubs a chance to ride some positive buzz about their team, at least in the near future.
Howard grew up in Chicago, and was a member of the Jackie Robinson West Little League team that captured the hearts of Chicagoans and the nation when they won the 2014 Little League World Series. Their title was eventually revoked due to roster eligibility issues, but the team still remained popular locally.
He went on to play baseball at Mt. Carmel High School, where he starred as the team’s shortstop. Even without playing a single game for the Caravan during the 2020 season, Howard was viewed by scouts and draft experts as one of the top shortstop prospects in the country. His selection with the 16th pick confirms that.
Howard was also a product of the Chicago White Sox Amateur City Elite program, or ACE, an arm of White Sox charities that provides inner-city kids with opportunities for education and to develop in the game of baseball, providing avenues for advancement to college or professional baseball. Another goal of ACE is to reverse the decline of African-American players in baseball, something that was probably not lost on Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who recently stated he needs to build more diversity in the Cubs organization overall.
Ultimately, however, Howard’s talent and potential as a baseball player is the reason the team made him their first-round pick. Cubs new Vice President of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, told reporters that Howard being available “was literally our best-case scenario.” Kantrovitz added: “He’s got an electric skill set. He’s a plus shortstop. He’s got pop in his bat. He can run. He can impact the game in so many ways. We think he has a chance to be a star.”
The Cubs stated that Howard would remain at shortstop in the organization. Most experts believe 2023 would be the soonest Howard might make his Major League debut. However, the timeline for all prospects could be delayed due to the absence of minor league baseball in 2020.
White Sox Bypass One of Their ACE Program Graduates in Howard, Draft University of Tennessee LHP Garret Crochet
With Howard, a Southsider, available when the White Sox pick came around at number 11, many people were wondering if the team would select one of their home-grown talents from their ACE program. However, when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped up to present the team’s pick, the name of a large college left-handed pitcher was announced instead.
Crochet comes to the White Sox as one of the top left-handed college pitchers in the draft. He struck out 149 batters and walked 48 over 132 innings pitched during his three years at Tennessee. He is known for a plus fastball that can reach triple digits, as well as a good slider and change-up. Control has been an issue for the lefty, who only pitched one game for the Vols in 2020 while dealing with shoulder soreness.
“I told Garrett … it’s an outstanding piece of your life to be compared to Chris Sale” Shirley told reporters. “But please proceed as being Garrett Crochet” he said. – White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting, Mike Shirley
Crochet has been receiving many comparisons to another tall left-handed hurler, former White Sox starter Chris Sale. And while he acknowledged to reporters during his post-selection conference call that some parts of his game were modeled after Sale, he doesn’t want people to just assume the same outcome. “I feel like it’s kind of tough to make on me(the Sale comparison), as I have not achieved anything as close as Chris Sale has achieved” Crochet told reporters.