A Closer Look at Chicago’s Bright Spot: Shortstop Ed Howard

Edward Vernell Howard IV is the fifth-best prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization, currently playing for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Howard is 19-years old and 15 games into his first professional season.

Shortstop Ed Howard 101

Howard has been a hot topic in the baseball world since he reached the 2014 Little League World Series at 12-years old with his Jackie Robinson West (Chicago) squad.

The Cubs’ young talent was selected 16th in the 2020 draft and was the first shortstop off the board. Chicago’s talent evaluators noted his physical maturity at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, and advanced mental understanding of the game.

The Illinois native wowed scouts with his tremendous defensive ability at shortstop, firing the ball across the diamond powerfully and accurately at a variety of angles. He has a quick first step in addition to big, soft hands that are reliable in the infield, and is agile enough to field most balls hit in his area. Howard may have only recently become an adult, but he already looks like a major-league player defensively.

For all of the tremendous talent that he has displayed on the defensive side of the game, Howard has not amazed at the plate so far, hitting .200 with zero home runs and four runs batted— he is not expected to make his name offensively, so these numbers are not a terrible surprise, although disappointing.

Even still, he has a strong swing that is capable of making consistent contact and the mind for the game to improve as a batter. He will need to turn in better performances at the plate to progress through the different levels of the development system, but he has plenty of time to accomplish that.

Promising Potential

The young righty’s best game in his short professional career came against the Augusta GreenJackets: he had two hits in four at-bats and an RBI and drew a walk in a 9-7 victory. This is one of three games this season where the young talent had more than one hit, though he is yet to surpass two hits in one game.

Cubs Ed Howard 101

Howard is already showing progression at the plate, posting a .259 batting average in his last eight games compared to .143 in his first seven games of the season. It is important to remember that he is still 19 and in his inaugural professional season, and he will need time to grow comfortable playing in a new location and league.

The Chicago Cubs have their hands full determining the direction of their future with Howard and their #4 prospect, Cristian Hernandez, a 17-year-old shortstop currently with the Cubs’ rookie affiliate.

Chicago’s big-league starter, Javier Baez, is nearly a polar opposite to Howard. Baez is a powerful hitter and has knocked in the eighth-most home runs in Major League Baseball (16) and the fifteenth-most RBIs (44)— in contrast, he has a poor BA of .232 and has a subpar .951 fielding percentage.

Baez played 104 games as a second baseman in 2018 and has appeared at left field, right field, third baseman, first baseman, shortstop, and as a designated hitter. If Howard is able to make his journey to the big show within the next few years, Baez’s flexibility would allow both men to feature in the Cubs’ lineup without sacrificing their production.

Howard and the Pelicans will go again Friday, June 18 against the Charleston RiverDogs at 7:05 p.m. ET as the young shortstop continues to build his resume against other hungry prospects around the league.

Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.