Tag Archives: Myles Garrett

MLB Draft: Sox Take College Pitcher, Cubs Take Local High-Schooler

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.

Free Agency Best and Worst: AFC North

Free agency opened in the NFL with the legal tampering period and the deals came in furiously. Most teams had a pretty clear idea of who they wanted and at what price. Of course, not all activity is created equal. Some of the teams did very well on paper. Others, however, were not so fortunate.

So who’s who? Well, that is the fun part. Adding talent isn’t a shoo-in way to a passing mark. Some teams would have been better off embracing the chance to rebuild and others passed on the chance at that one difference-maker. Others still seemed to be operating in a different world.

First up, the AFC North…

Best and Worst from the AFC North Free Agency

Baltimore Ravens

Best Move: Trading for Calais Campbell (and Signing Michael Brockers)

Yes, we are beginning by breaking the rules slightly. This is, obviously, a pair of additions to the perennial fearsome Baltimore Ravens front. But they’ll need both to make up for the loss of Michael Pierce, the mammoth defensive tackle who left for the Minnesota Vikings this offseason. Michael Brockers (6-5, 305 lbs) and Calais Campbell (6-8, 300 lbs) are bringing the beef.

One might have been enough, but after giving up 195 rushing yards to Derrick Henry in the playoffs, bringing in both is probably a good idea. What gives the addition of Campbell the edge? The fact that Baltimore was able to take advantage of the Jacksonville Jaguars and steal the massive run stuffer for a 5th-round pick; the same cost the Washington Redskins paid to the Carolina Panthers for Kyle Allen.

Worst Move: Marshal Yanda Retiring

This one is obviously not in the Ravens control. Marshal Yanda has been one of the most consistent guards in all of football over the last decade-plus. Initially drafted by Baltimore in the third round (86th overall) of the 2007 NFL draft, Yanda started no fewer than 12 games in 10 out of his 13 seasons.

An eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro, and a Super Bowl champion. Careers don’t get much more decorated than Yanda’s. It cannot be understated what he meant to the top-ranked rushing attack of the Ravens. And keeping pressure out of 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson’s lap. They placed a second-round tender on center Matt Skura, maintaining some continuity inside. But he’s no Yanda.

Next Move: Signing Matt Judon Long-Term

This move is really pending on where Matt Judon is playing next season. Baltimore slapped him with the franchise tag and the thought was “duh”. He led the Ravens with 9.5 sacks without much of a compliment and is just entering his prime. But rumors are swirling that he could be moved with the Ravens cap situation getting tight after landing Campbell, Brockers, et al.

16.5 sacks over two years aren’t eye-popping numbers. But he also has 67 pressures and 27 quarterback knockdowns over that same span. After Baltimore lost Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs last offseason, the next best pass-rushing “threat” of the last two years was Patrick Onwuasor. He has a whopping eight sacks over that time and was outplayed by Tyus Bowser last year.

Cincinnati Bengals

Best Move: Signing D.J. Reader to replace Andrew Billings

Usually, when teams lose a rotation player (as Andrew Billings was for the Cincinnati Bengals), they replace them with a cheap option later in free agency or via the draft. The Bengals went above and beyond by replacing Billings with a far superior version of himself in Houston Texans defensive lineman, D.J. Reader.

You might not know much about Reader because he plays defensive end in an odd (3-4) defensive front. He is mostly there to take up blockers and allow the pass-rush to get home. But he, conversely to Billings has seen his sack totals rise each of the last three seasons (to a lustrous 2.5) and increase his pressures from seven to 12.

Worst Move: Tagging A.J. Green

It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is for the Bengals next season. Andy Dalton or a rookie (sup, Joe Burrow?) will need weapons to throw to. And for much of the last nine years, A.J. Green has been the best to wear the stripes. Still, tagging him at $18 million seems a bit misguided. Nobody is trading for him at that number.

Green now narrowly edges Dalton for the highest cap hit on the team. That’s doubly bad because Dalton should be on his way out. Keeping a veteran receiver around to ease the burden on a rookie quarterback isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But when that receiver has only played nine games in the last two years, including zero last year, it’s fair to question the move.

Next Move: Draft a Cornerback

You won’t hear many suggesting this as a must for Cincinnati. After all, they just signed a pair of former Vikings corners in Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. Waynes especially will be viewed as addressing the secondary simply by virtue of his three-year, $42 million ($15 million in guarantees) contract. That would be a mistake.

Waynes (75 percent) and Alexander (65 percent) gave up too many catches with the Vikings. They also both allowed passer ratings over 84 with Waynes allowing a healthy 107.9 rating. Luckily for the Bengals, neither has to be a shutdown corner. That responsibility falls on William Jackson… Draft a corner, Cincy.

Cleveland Browns

Best Move: Signing Jack Conklin

Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Baker Mayfield has been on the wrong side of a few statistical categories the past two seasons. Thanks to Jameis Winston’s record-setting 2019, not much attention was paid to Mayfield being second in interceptions with 21. He’s second (to Winston) over the last two seasons with 35 picks thrown.

So why is adding Jack Conklin (three-years, $42 million) a great move? At least part of what ailed Mayfield was having to be on the run much of the time. Greg Robinson is worried about the wrong kind of blocks at the moment, but Conklin is leaps and bounds above both he and Chris Hubbard. They still need to add at least one more lineman in the draft. But Conklin is a nice place to start.

Worst Move: Making Austin Hooper the Highest-Paid TE

This is less about the talent level of Austin Hooper than it is a reality check to the Browns that throwing money at the problem won’t fix it. They were already loaded with high-end weapons in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry at wide receiver as well as a talented backfield duo in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Regardless of Hooper’s ability, there’s still just one football.

David Njoku, Cleveland’s first-round pick just two seasons ago, hasn’t developed as they wanted. But, in his defense, young tight ends tend to take a while to get acclimated to the NFL. Head coach Kevin Stefanski orchestrated a Vikings offense that was among the heaviest in two tight end usage. Still, if your quarterback needs all this, you might need a quarterback.

Next Move: Draft a Bookend for Myles Garrett

Myles Garrett fell short of his sack total from the previous year but arguably had a better year. His 10 sacks indeed fell short of the 13.5 he put up in 2018. But he did that with a full, 16-game schedule. Due to his own recklessness, he missed six games last season. That means he was averaging a sack a game before getting suspended. But he was almost literally a one-man show.

The next best pass-rusher in Cleveland was Larry Ogunjobi. His 5.5 sacks are respectable for an interior lineman. But they absolutely stink as the complement to such a dominant force like Garrett. Cleveland should address this early in the draft. With needs along the offensive line and at linebacker, though, they may have to rely on a rotation of players.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Best Move: Tagging Bud Dupree

It’s simple really. If you aren’t spending money on a quarterback or someone to protect him, targeting someone to make opposing passers uneasy. The Pittsburgh Steelers have that in Bud Dupree. Actually, they have two when you include T.J. Watt. But Dupree was far from a hit to begin his career as his running mate was.

Dupree had 11.5 sacks total the previous two seasons so it isn’t a surprise that Pittsburgh isn’t exactly beating down his door with a long-term extension. Detractors will rightfully point out that Watt’s presence cannot be overstated. That may be the case, but Dupree still had to get home and he did. Now he just has to do it again

Worst Move: Losing Javon Hargrave

Folks don’t usually stump for nose tackles but here we are. When the Steelers lost Javon Hargrave to the Philadelphia Eagles, they lost more than just a space-eater. After all, nose tackles aren’t supposed to sack quarterbacks. Hargrave has 10.5 sacks over the last two years; that’s notable with him playing alongside Watt, Dupree, Cameron Heyward, and Stephon Tuitt.

Granted, there was no way Pittsburgh could afford him at the price Philly paid. As much of an impact as he had, it’s not worth handing him the sixth-richest contract for a defensive tackle in terms of the average value. The saddest part of all of this is that Hargrave won’t be a Steeler for life like his predecessor in the Steel City, Casey Hampton.

Next Move: Draft Big Ben’s Heir Apparent

Pittsburgh found ways to win after Ben Roethlisberger went down. They did it with defense, though, because their trio of backup quarterbacks fell short of making up for the loss of Roethlisberger. They got eight starts out of Mason Rudolph, who went 5-3. They also got six starts out of Devlin Hodges; an undrafted rookie free agent who went 3-3. Neither is an option.

Unfortunately, the Steelers are without their first-round (Minkah Fitzpatrick) this year but they likely weren’t in the market for a top-tier passer anyway. But would they spend their second-round? Roethlisberger is 38 and has openly considered retirement in the past. He’s reportedly all in now, but Pittsburgh should be proactive here or risk repeating last year.