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Cubs select Mount Carmel shortstop Ed Howard with 16th pick in MLB Draft

For the first time since 2012 — president Theo Epstein’s first draft with the team — the Cubs have selected a high school player with their top pick. And that pick has big-time local ties, an exciting development.

Ed Howard was a star on the Jackie Robinson West team that reached the final of the 2014 Little League World Series.
Ed Howard was a star on the Jackie Robinson West team that reached the final of the 2014 Little League World Series.

It started with a meeting at Wrigley Field with the Cubs’ brand-new VP of scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, in January. That’s where Kantrovitz, who traveled from the West Coast that day, watched Mount Carmel shortstop Ed Howard roam the infield and swing the bat.

“It was definitely worth it,” Kantrovitz said Wednesday after the Cubs selected Howard with the 16th pick in the MLB Draft.

Howard impressed the Cubs again months later in a Zoom meeting. The high school season canceled and the draft on the horizon, Howard wore a baseball glove on his left hand while speaking from his home with Kantrovitz and others. This is a kid with serious big-league tools and an uncommon love of the game, the Cubs eventually became convinced.

“He’s got an electric skill set,” Kantrovitz said. “He’s a ‘plus’ shortstop, has pop in his bat, can run and can impact the game in so many ways. He has a chance to become a star.”

Know this: The Cubs view the 6-2, 185-pound Howard as a shortstop, no matter what that looks like right now in the Javy Baez picture. Baez can become a free agent after the 2021 season.

This was the first time since 2012 — president Theo Epstein’s first draft with the team — that the Cubs took a high school player with their top pick. That year, they went with center fielder Albert Almora Jr.

Howard, who grew up in South Holland and Lynwood, was widely considered the best defensive shortstop in the draft. He hit .421 with 11 doubles, four triples and three home runs in 35 games for the Caravan as a junior. His senior season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s very exciting,’’ Howard said. ‘‘Not only to get selected in the MLB Draft, but to be staying home. It’s a surreal moment.”

Some will remember Howard as the shortstop on the Jackie Robinson West squad that rolled to a U.S. championship at the 2014 Little League World Series, only to later have the title stripped. Howard entered the U.S. title game in relief and got the last two outs on a 1-6-3 double play.

Some thought Howard, 18, would be a natural fit for the White Sox at No. 11. He’s a Sox fan and a friend of Tim Anderson.

“I like both teams, honestly,” Howard recently told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think it was getting out there that I’m just a die-hard Sox fan, but the reality is I like both of them. I liked the Cubs having their run, playing in the playoffs, things like that. I’m just a fan of baseball.”

Howard has played at Wrigley Field before, in the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game. Last year, he was a member of Team USA’s 18-under club.

“I feel I deserve to be the best shortstop in the draft with all the work I’ve put in,” he said.

The Cubs hold the 51st, 88th, 117th and 147th picks Thursday in a draft that was shortened to five rounds.