Getting players from draft day to Wrigley is about two completely distinct concepts: getting the right talent, and developing it. For the truncated 2020 selection process, the Cubs have chosen their five players. It becomes now about getting them signed, and getting value from them.
In general, I like the class the Cubs took this draft week. Their video, numbers, and (in one case) video game numbers look promising. As with other players in other seasons, getting value is most likely coming from players who respond well to the coaches, and stay healthy. Both of those are in the future.
I hope at least one of these players fascinates you like they did the Cubs executives. They have upside, whether they reach it or not. They have a long way to go, and may need a bunch of good wishes along the way. Reaching MLB needn't be a requirement for well-wishing.
Ed Howard, shortstop, Mt. Carmel High School, Chicago
Howard burst onto the baseball scene as the shortstop for the Jackie Robinson West Little League squad. They were a great story, and Howard is one now. Many consider him the best defensive shortstop in the draft class. His offense has four years to get better. If that's not enough, he likely would get added to the 40-man roster, to add more seasons. Development is the protocol, not hurry.
I hope you take an interest in at least one of these players, and try to learn a bit about them. As I took to listening to games in the pipeline, I realized the interest in the minor league pipeline didn't prevent me from caring about the parent club. It, instead, greatly increased my interest in players trying to prove themselves nightly against similar competition; only at a lower level. If you decide to listen to a game Howard is playing in at the pipeline level, it won't be far into the game before you have information to assess. With more to come later that game, and more later that week. Minor league ball is about answering questions, night after night, at-bat after at-bat, and fielding chance after fielding chance.
Howard would be fifth on any Cubs prospect list I would make right now, but lists cause more problems than they solve. Howard should be fun to follow, and his personality seems positively infectious.
Burl Carraway, left-handed pitcher, Dallas Baptist University
A pure reliever, Carraway was regularly working in the upper 90s for DBU in 2020. He's a fastball/curve guy. He walks more people than you might prefer, but would probably be better than the 2021 equivalent of the Midwest League.
From a development perspective, will the Cubs use Carraway as a two- or three-day a week/one inning guy? Will they try to get more creative? Might they use him as an opener in lower levels? How early choices are used can be hints of what the organization is doing on bigger levels. The Cubs haven't used A-Ball relievers in back-to-back games except in extreme situations. Will they flip the script with Carraway? How he performs is one ongoing story.
Jordan Nwogu, left fielder, University of Michigan
I put left field because of the people I reached out to regarding Nwogu, neither center nor right field seem applicable, at least for now. Nwogu is a built physical specimen who looks like a football player told to report to the wrong field. His swing isn't pretty or delicate, but he has power. He has good speed as well. However, his defense is presently substandard. But for COVID-19, Nwogu would be getting five or six starts a week in South Bend soon.
As much as anything, Nwogu could be a nod to the potential incoming designated hitter expansion. He might get a few starts in right field in the low minors, but he's an offense-first left fielder, for now. Baseball players, though, develop at the pace they do. Nwogu's development plane may be slow, and potentially uneven. However, if he figures it out, Wrigley is a potential destination.
Luke Little, left-handed pitcher, San Jacinto Junior College (Texas)
If I say "105", what do you think of? It's a really dangerous temperature to stay alive at. It's a music venue in Naperville. It's a California highway that runs from roughly El Segundo to Downey through Compton. It's also a recent velocity reading for a pitch by the 6-foot-8 Little in a recent throwing session.
His walks were extreme for San Jac, an elite junior college. He also fanned over 17 per nine innings this season. (A few walks and strikeouts on that Strat-O-Matic card.) Gone are the days of the "effective-but-somewhat-boring pitch-to-contact" pitcher in Cubs drafts. Little brings it. Whether he cashes in or not, he's a fun gamble, even though nobody is likely looking forward to playing catch with him, batting against him in BP, or tossing on the mask to get behind the plate.
Again, how he gets used is as much a story as how often he gets outs. Will he be a "20 pitches and leave" type of reliever? Will he pitch early enough so he can stick around if successful? These answers are learned in games, and full-season pipeline games are streamed by qualified audio journalists. Don't be afraid to pop in for an inning. The inning might be over before the adverts conclude on the parent club game.
Koen Moreno, right-handed pitcher, Panther Creek HS, Cary, North Carolina.
I could talk basics regarding Moreno. He was up to mid-nineties and (trails off into the distance). You are only paying copious attention to the Moreno section if you're a Cubs minor league completists, a person who reads all of all my articles (I love my family), or you have an affiliation with Moreno himself.
Moreno is the type of player teams used to draft plenty of every year. Send them to the compound in Arizona or Florida. Give them two or three years to figure it out, then release them, or get them to full-season ball. Those opportunities are fewer now, and won't get much better next year.
Rob Manfred is preparing to decree teams can have no more than 150 prospects in a pipeline at a time. 150 sounds like quite a few, but the full-season squads all have 25. With four of those, the other players will be fighting for inclusion on (presumably) one squad on the Mesa, Arizona campus. Injuries, regardless the duration, reduce the number of players able to play. Instead of teams having room for however many players they want, this number is about to be managed, like pitch counts or mound visits. And players like Moreno get less time to develop because of it
Hopefully, Moreno reaches full-season ball. If he does, I'll be able to give you actual game accounts from announcers, instead of sterile "he has a 60 fastball and potential 55 curve and change" gobbledygook. Of course, with no Short-Season broadcasts anymore, that information will have to wait, so that owners don't have to expense for players trying to make the system better.
If you're angry at the owners or players? Don't take it out on the game. Little League baseball, high school, and college games still exist. I grasp the frustration at the expense, but you can listen to pipeline games for free on your computer, and (if you use Twitter) can congratulate players after the game. And they'll respond. (Javy Baez was the best at that.)
These guys will be years from MLB, if they ever arrive. However, remember the joy of being selected in the joy on players' faces this week. That won't be taken away. How will they do? Were the right players selected? Those are questions for another time. I wish these five success, and the same goes for any players signed as free agents. In July, the scene shift to the international scene. Until then? More squabbles between the players and owners. Or pictures of sunsets on the ocean. Those are usually nice.