Following the five-round 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft, MiLB.com takes an organization-by-organization look at each pick with help from team scouting executives.
Lukas McKnight and the rest of the Cubs scouting department didn't have go too far to find their first-round pick in the Draft. In fact, they were all too familiar with Ed Howard.
"We've had a really long history of getting to know him, both as a player and as a person," McKnight said. "He played with Alek Thomas as a sophomore at Mount Carmel High School and we saw him play 10 times that season. We've had him at Wrigley multiple times, we've gotten to follow him at the Area Code Games for multiple years, Team USA for multiple years."
The local product became the 16th overall pick in last week's Draft. Here's a look at all five of the Cubs' picks.
First round: Ed Howard (16th pick)
Having a sure-handed shortstop is always a key in baseball, and the Cubs might have landed the best one in this year's Draft.
"He's probably certainly one of the elite defenders in the Draft," McKnight said. "It's a guy that we've just known a long time. We've seen him develop as a hitter and have always seen an elite defensive glove at shortstop."
The 6-foot-2 and 185-pound Howard "can make all the plays with athletic actions, quick hands and a strong arm capable of making throws from a variety of angles," according to MLB.com.
At the plate, he's a contact hitter but, with the big frame and extra strength the 18-year-old is expected to add, he should be able to gain power. He's speedy on the bases, yet it might be what goes on between the ears that impresses scouts the most.
"[He] has a high baseball IQ and a knack for slowing the game down on both sides of the ball," MLB.com reported.
The Cubs have some middle-infield depth that will provide Howard time to develop. Javier Baez is a mainstay up the middle on the North Side, and top prospect Nico Hoerner just arrived late last summer. Thirteenth-ranked Pedro Martinez and No. 19 Zack Short provide depth in the system. But if Howard's bat can meet the potential of his glove, the Chicago native should get every opportunity to man the shortstop spot at Wrigley Field.
Second round: Burl Carraway (51st pick)
One word comes to mind about the 6-foot lefty: dominant.
"What he's done at Dallas Baptist has been nothing short of dominant the last two years to go along with doing the same thing with Team USA as well as the Cape (Cod League)," McKnight said.
In the shortened 2020 season, Carraway went 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA over 9 1/3 innings, allowing five hits while striking out 17. That followed a 2019 campaign in which he put up a 2.81 ERA and 4-2 record over 41 2/3 frames, fanning 72 while walking 22.
“We think he's got just an elite fastball that plays great to go along with a pair of secondary breaking balls that we think are just going to continue to get better and continue to develop and just give him the chance to be a late-inning impact reliever for us in Chicago,” McKnight said.
Don’t expect Carraway’s road to the Majors to take very long, if he produces. Left-handed relievers are hot commodities for every team, especially one like the Cubs, who expect to contend for a playoff spot every season.
Third round: Jordan Nwogu (88th pick)
“The body of a Greek god,” is how McKnight described the slugger out of the University of Michigan. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, you can understand why. But that isn’t all that makes him special.
“Obviously, the physical characteristics are unique on their own right, but past that we saw a guy that had performed for three years,” McKnight said. “He wasn't just a slugger. He always put the ball in play for a really high level for a guy with the sort of power numbers he put up as well. To go along with, he stole 16 bases last year, he runs well, and he played some center field this year for them, so we see a lot of upside and a well-rounded game.”
As a sophomore in 2019, Nwogu hit .321/.435/.557 for the Wolverines while collecting 12 homers, four triples, 14 doubles, 46 RBIs and 58 runs scored.
If Nwogu can keep up that kind of production at the professional level, he could move quickly. Only two of the Cubs’ top 20 prospects -- Brennen Davis (No. 3) and Cole Roederer (No. 5) -- are outfielders if you don’t count Hoerner, who also could see time at the position.
Fourth round: Luke Little (117th pick)
A flamethrower, Little got some recognition in May when a video of him throwing 105 mph at an indoor facility hit the internet. He’s big -- 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds -- and has lost weight since the end of the shortened college season at San Jacinto, where he missed four weeks due to a back injury. In two seasons with the Gators, he rang up 86 strikeouts over 44 1/3 frames.
His mechanics will need to be refined, since he has trouble repeating his delivery.
“Little's social media heroics speak for themselves,” McKnight said. “He's obviously impressive with his physicality and arm strength, but we also see promise in his breaking ball long-term and we think he'd turned something of a corner in our looks this spring with his ability to throw strikes more consistently.”
You can’t teach size and you can’t teach how to throw the ball extremely hard, so Little has assets that few in baseball possess. Being another lefty in the system, he could work his way up quickly and become a valuable reliever.
Fifth Round: Koen Moreno (147th pick)
A 6-foot-2 right-hander out of Panther Creek High School in North Carolina, Moreno has added velocity to his fastball the past couple of years, topping out in the mid-90s.
“Moreno's a classic projection (high school right-hander) that oozes with upside,” McKnight said. “We liked him last summer and saw him progress to touching 94. The scouts and pitch data are in agreement that there's promise to his breaking ball as well, especially as his body adds strength and his repertoire gains more power.”
Moreno, who committed to East Carolina University, is expected to sign and forgo college. Only 18, he'll have time to gain experience in the Minors, with right-handers Adbert Alzolay and Kohl Franklin ahead of him in the system.