The Cubs had two picks on the opening night of the 2023 MLB Draft, and it looks like they may have balanced risk with security. With their first pick at No. 13, they took infielder Matt Shaw out of Maryland. Considered one of the best college hitters available, he played mainly shortstop but could end up at second base. The Cubs didn’t have another pick until No. 68 (compensation pick for losing Willson Contreras), where they took righty Jaxon Wiggins.
Shaw, who goes 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, earned Cape Code League MVP honors last summer and was then named the Big 10 Player of the Year for his performance with the Terrapins. The 21-year-old slashed .341/.445/.697with 24 homers, 20 doubles, one triple, and 69 RBI to lead his team to a conference title. In 167 games across three seasons with the Terps, Shaw batted .320 with 53 homers, 47 doubles, two triples, 166 RBI, and a 1.036 OPS.
“This day has been obviously amazing,” Shaw said Sunday night. “The Cubs were a team that I really, really wanted to go play for. So my reaction was really just excited. I’m really glad that it worked out the way it did.”
He also spoke about wanting to be challenged right out of the gate and moved quickly through the system, much like the Angels did with shortstop Zach Neto. Last year’s No. 13 selection was aggressively assigned to Double-A after just 31 plate appearances at High-A in ’22 and then had just 34 PAs at Double-A this year before being promoted to the majors.
That’s a pretty unlikely path to follow, if only because the Cubs kind of have the middle infield locked up for the foreseeable future. Cubs VP of scouting Dan Kantrovitz tempered those expectations a bit, then added that you’d rather see that kind of aggressive mentality in a young player.
“He’s got all the tools to move quick,” Katrovitz told media members after the selection. “But at the same time, you want to be careful to kind of put those expectations on him right out of the chute.”
I’m far from a draft guru and I haven’t done a ton of research on Shaw, but he reminds me a little bit of Ian Happ when he came out of Cincinnati. An infielder at the time, Happ clung to his desire to play second base for a long time even when the Cubs had made it clear he was going to be playing in the grass. Shaw may well end up moving elsewhere on the diamond because it’s the bat that is expected to carry him.
“The first thing that stands out, something the scouts were raving about for the last few years, it’s just a dynamic bat,” Katrovitz said. “And I think it really took center stage probably last summer in the Cape, when he displayed the decision-making that he’s capable of, the ability to make consistent contact, and then the ability to hit for damage.”
The Cubs used to lean a little power-heavy before correcting for that and trying to add more contact, but now they find themselves stuck in something of a no-mans land. Their .246 team average ranks 18th in MLB at the break and their 96 home runs are 21st, though their .325 OBP has them all the way up at 11th. Rather than going for players who bring either contact or pop, we may see them target more players like Shaw who can supply both.
While no pick is guaranteed, this feels like a pretty safe one for Kantrovitz and the Cubs. Wiggins, on the other hand, may carry a little more risk because he missed all of his junior season at Arkansas due to Tommy John surgery. In two previous campaigns, he appeared in 34 games (19 starts) and struck out 110 batters in 89 innings. That 6.17 ERA is a little unsightly, but the Cubs clearly see a lot of potential.
Prior to the injury, Wiggins sat in the mid-90s and touched 99 on occasion with a fastball that received a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He’s also got strong secondaries with a slider (55), changeup (55), and curve (50) delivered from a 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame that could produce more velocity with development. Even though the circumstances are different, Wiggins reminds me of the Horton pick last year.
Both are Oklahoma kids who excelled in two sports — Wiggins played basketball, Horton football — and have big-time stuff, but fell in the draft due to injury. The timing of Horton’s elbow surgery allowed him to flash in a big way during the College World Series in ’22, leading the Cubs to take him earlier than projected at No. 7. That’s looking like a great pick right now, as Horton is up to No. 2 in MLB Pipeline’s system rankings.
Rounds 3-10 take place on Monday beginning at 1pm CT on MLB.com, then rounds 11-20 will be on Tuesday at the same time and same place. Below are the Cubs’ remaining selections.
- Round 3, Pick 81
- Round 4: Pick 113
- Round 5: Pick 149
- Round 6, Pick 176
- Round 7, Pick 206
- Round 8, Pick 236
- Round 9, Pick 266
- Round 10, Pick 296
- Round 11, Pick 326
- Round 12, Pick 356
- Round 13, Pick 386
- Round 14, Pick 416
- Round 15, Pick 446
- Round 16, Pick 476
- Round 17, Pick 506
- Round 18, Pick 536
- Round 19, Pick 566
- Round 20, Pick 596