With the chaotic pre-draft process due to the outbreak of COVID-19, this could be a year where teams picking before the Arizona Diamondbacks may elect to take safer profiles in college players. That could play right into the team’s preferred strategy of taking athletic high school position players. One such player who fits that mold is Ed Howard, a shortstop from Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, Illinois. I had previously mentioned him as 10 players to keep an eye on for the team’s top selection in the draft.
Player: Ed Howard
Size: 6’2” 185
Howard projects to stick at the shortstop position long term, although his only other fallback position may be second base. As of right now, the team has a consensus Top-100 prospect that projects to the shortstop position in Geraldo Perdomo. Perdomo is coming off a successful season in which he made significant gains with the bat between Low A, High A, and the Fall League. Center field isn’t a likely option for Howard given the presence of Corbin Carroll and his former high school teammate Alek Thomas in the system, although he complements them as a right-handed hitting bat.
Rankings: Baseball America (20th), MLB Pipeline (15th)
Expected Draft Range: 15-30 overall
Once the run on the top college arms is over, Howard will be one of the next few names to go off the board as the top prep SS in the draft. Given the shear number of middle infielders that could go in the draft, it’s possible that Howard has the most volatile range of outcomes of any position player in this draft.
Projected Tools: Hit 55, Power 50, Speed 55, Defense 60
If there is one area where this year’s draft is weak at, it’s at the shortstop position. Austin Martin and Nick Gonzales will go Top 5, but neither projects to stay there for the bulk of their playing career. Howard is the highest rated player who projects to stay there. His defense is well ahead of his offense, which may take years at the MLB level before reaching it. However his ceiling could an above-average hitter, baserunner, and defender at a premium position.
The D-backs had a player with a similar profile when they acquired Nick Ahmed in the Justin Upton trade. Howard’s glove isn’t as good as Ahmed’s when comparing both players as prospects, but Howard has more offensive upside both at the plate and on the bases. Part of the key to unlocking that potential upside is for Howard to fill out to at least 200 pounds and that would project more power down the road. He doesn’t need to be an above-average hitter to be an impact player, but will need to play near gold glove level defense at the position.
Why the D-backs might draft him?
Depending on how the draft turns out, Howard may be the best up the middle high school player on the board. After taking two left/left outfielders from the high school ranks, it doesn’t make sense for the team to go that position with 4 of their top 5 prospects likely to see a lot of time in the outfield in the big leagues. If there is a run on college and high school arms, the team’s best option may be Howard.
Howard fits the mold for what the team has looked for in position players in the Mike Hazen regime. A very athletic and mature high school player who projects to be a solid all-around player at a premium position, I’ll be surprised if the team doesn’t seriously consider Howard if available with the 18th overall pick.
Why the D-backs might not draft him?
The only two reasons I see the team not getting Howard are if a player higher up on their board falls to 18 or Howard is not on the board when the D-backs pick. Some of the names I’d take before Howard include Jared Kelley, Mick Abel, Patrick Bailey, and Cade Cavalli. I believe those guys will get snatched up quickly in the teens though as between those five players I think Howard has the best chance of being available at 18.
Should the D-backs elect to go in a different direction, Alika Williams will most likely be on the board at the 33rd pick, although Casey Martin and Jordan Westburg are likely to be taken between 18 and 33.
The D-backs would be in the middle of where Howard would likely go in the draft, so signing him should not be a difficult issue. The slot value for the 18th pick is $3.4MM which should easily be enough to get him to forgo a commitment to Oklahoma.
ETA: June 2024
I’m expecting Howard to take a couple years to add muscle to his frame and continue to improve his bat. How it progresses will determine how long it takes for him to reach the majors and become a regular shortstop. If Perdomo ends up being the team’s everyday shortstop by that time, then the option would be to move Howard across from second base and use both players as the up-the-middle combination. Howard’s bat will really need to progress if he projects to second base rather than shortstop.