You would be hard-pressed to find scouts who aren’t impressed by Howard’s defensive ability. Talent evaluators agreed that it’s hard to find a prep shortstop of this caliber at that point in the draft.
What makes Howard such a strong defender? Scouts point to his hands. Howard may not have elite range, but if he can get to the ball, he will make the play. In today’s game, with teams knowing how to position their defenders better than ever before, some believe he’ll grade out as an elite shortstop. The Cubs believe they selected the best defender in the draft.
I said that I doubt Howard reaches the level of Addison Russell or Javy Baez on defense, but I think he can be above-average at SS. Not elite, but very good and I believe that's how most scouts feel as well.
Howard won’t have the swing-and-miss concern as he’s viewed as a strong contact hitter. But the separator will be whether he can tap into his power. The Cubs don’t envision a dramatic swing change to get this done, but this is where the player development staff, like Valaika and new director of hitting Justin Stone, will be key.
“Their hitting coaches in the organization, I think they’re really good,” Howard said. “I think they can help me a lot. I feel like I can improve everywhere, all sides of the game. I think that organization is going to do a great job to help me get on the right path to play in the big leagues. I’m comfortable with them. I believe in them, I trust them and I feel like they trust in me. I think it’s a great fit and I’m just ready to get going.”
Same thing for me. I like the swing, but I wonder how much power he develops as he grows and gets stronger? 10-15 HRs is still great for a SS who plays good/great defense; if he gets stronger and starts hitting for power and gets to 25-30 HRs then he becomes one of the best shortstops in the game. Very exciting to have a prospect like this in the system again.
"It was met with, basically, he didn't want to talk about that. He didn't want me to tell him that. I just basically said, 'Well that's why we want an electronic strike zone.'" -- Ben Zobrist