Matt Shaw said shortly after being drafted that he felt he could move quickly through the minor leagues and that he believed the Cubs would give him that opportunity. He specifically noted being moved up to Double-A in short order, which happened earlier this week after playing a total of 23 games between the Arizona Complex League and High-A South Bend.
Shaw wasted no time proving he belonged at Tennessee, collecting a single in his first at-bat on Wednesday and then doubling on Thursday. The strong offensive production from the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year out of Maryland is what’s had him climbing the ladder quickly, but the real sign of how the Cubs feel about him came when he started at third base in his second Double-A game.
That’s the first time he’d played the hot corner professionally after a total of just 20 games there during college between the Terps and the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League. Shaw served primarily as a shortstop with a fair bit of time at second, and you typically see middle infielders remain in those spots for as long as possible before being shifted to where an organization believes they’ll end up.
While the Cubs have several other young shortstops matriculating through the system, the more pressing reason for Shaw to get a lot more time at third is that Chicago’s middle infield is set for at least the next three years. Their third base situation, however, is far more malleable. With a solid hit tool and the potential for 60-grade power, Shaw could even push himself to Wrigley by next season.
“When we think through promotions, we want to make sure players are challenged close to the edge of their ability,” Cubs VP of player development Jared Banner told the media. “And with Matt’s performance here in his first 20 games in High-A, it seemed like he was ready for a new challenge. So, we didn’t want to be too conservative there.”
It’s all going to be a matter of how he responds to this and other challenges, of course, but the folks over at MLB Pipeline believe Shaw will be up to them. Jim Callis tweeted Friday that “Shaw is going to get to Wrigley Field very fast” while sharing Pipeline’s latest rankings that have the Cubs’ top draft pick at No. 100. Shaw joins Pete Crow-Armstrong (12), Cade Horton (30), Owen Caissie (67), Kevin Alcantara (74) and Ben Brown (89) to give the Cubs six members of the Century Club.
Shaw is going to get to Wrigley Field very fast. https://t.co/oq8I1qWhdr
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) September 1, 2023
That’s a little better from when they just had three prospects listed, though most evaluators had several more would-be Cubs in the honorable mention section. Then you consider that lefty Jordan Wicks isn’t even listed among that group despite having already pushed his way to the majors and shoved in his debut. Shaw is still listed with a 2025 ETA, as is Horton, but the possibility exists that both will outperform those expectations.
There’s obviously a whole lot more that has to go right for that to happen, but it’s pretty cool to see how the Cubs have improved when it comes to player evaluation and development in the last few years. We can probably point to the disastrous 2019 draft as the impetus for personnel and philosophical changes throughout the organization, with the truncated 2020 draft providing Dan Kantrovitz very little traction to turn things around.
Three full drafts and international signing periods later, this looks like a whole different system with a much brighter outlook. Whether those young players end up coming to Wrigley or heading elsewhere in exchange for established big leaguers, the farm is stronger than we’ve seen in many years and Shaw is a great example of that growth.