Shaw (No. 7 prospect) aims to ride his versatility to the bigs

January 14th, 2024

CHICAGO -- was among a group of Cubs prospects who had a chance to gather recently and gain some insight from second baseman Nico Hoerner and outfielder Ian Happ on reaching the Majors. As the infield prospect listened to Hoerner speak, the idea behind Shaw’s offseason work was reinforced.

“It’s just about being all-around -- just being able to play any position,” Shaw said during Cubs Convention this weekend. “[Hoerner] said something about how valuable it is that he was able to do that. He was someone who could play outfield, play third, play short, play second -- really, play anywhere.

“You look at guys like that that are in the organization, that have been really successful, and you’re like, ‘OK, that makes sense. That’s the type of guy they want.’ You want to be that guy.”

Shaw -- selected with the No. 13 overall pick in last summer’s Draft and ranked No. 7 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Cubs' Top 30 prospects -- has concentrated on defensive versatility this offseason. The 22-year-old infielder has yet to take a swing this winter, opting instead to dedicate the early winter months to infield drills.

Shaw began his career at Maryland as a second baseman and finished as the team’s star shortstop. In his pro debut in the Cubs system, he moved between second (87 2/3 innings) and short (165 innings) as he climbed rapidly from the Arizona Complex League to Double-A Tennessee.

The Cubs already have core players established and signed to long-term deals up the middle in the ‘23 Gold Glove duo of shortstop Dansby Swanson and Hoerner. If Shaw’s swift ascent continues, there could be more of an opportunity for him at third base, and Shaw knows that the more he puts in the work, the better he can become at multiple spots.

“You can take 1,000 reps in a cage every day and you might not get much better,” said Shaw, who is No. 96 on Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. “But there's an art to defense where -- putting in the time, effort, taking the ground balls -- over a long period of time, you start to just read the hops better. First step, lateral movement, whatever it may be, that all gets better in the process.”

Here are a few more Pipeline-related items from Cubs Con:

Horton not focusing on fast track to Wrigley

The Cubs have shown a willingness to push pitching prospects swiftly up the organizational ladder. Lefty Jordan Wicks climbed from Double-A to Chicago’s rotation last year. Righty Javier Assad did the same in ‘22.

, who MLB Pipeline ranks No. 2 for the Cubs and No. 29 overall, could be coming soon, too.

“You just control what you can control,” Horton said. “I can't control when I'm gonna get called up. The only way I can do that is going out there and performing. That's really all that matters at the end of the day. So it's trusting in that.”

The 22-year-old Horton (selected seventh overall in the ‘22 Draft) had a 2.65 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 27 walks in 88 1/3 regular-season innings at three levels. The righty had a 1.22 ERA in eight starts (including two playoff outings) with Double-A Tennessee, helping the Smokies win the Southern League title.

Davis aiming for big comeback campaign

Outfielder was the MVP of the SirusXM All-Star Futures Game in ‘21 and Pipeline’s top-ranked Cubs prospect going into the ‘22 campaign, but injury setbacks over the last two seasons have shifted the spotlight to other prospects.

“It’s all noise,” Davis said. “The goal has been the same goal since Day 1 -- be a big leaguer and be able to help the big league club win. The rankings ... I said it when I was at the top and I’ll say it now: It’s somebody’s opinion. It’s not who you are as a baseball player.”

Davis, 24, currently sits at No. 19 on Pipeline’s Cubs list after back surgery stalled his ‘22 showing and issues with a sports hernia led to a midseason procedure in ‘23. At Cubs Con, the outfielder noted that the latter setback was an on-and-off problem dating back to ‘21.

Recovered and feeling strong, Davis is ready to turn the page on the last two years.

“Super ready. Super ready for a fresh start,” he said. “2024 is going to be a big year for me.”

Arias looking forward to first big league spring

(No. 12 Cubs prospect) was originally signed by the Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic as a shortstop prospect in 2018. Chicago picked him up in 2020 after Toronto released him and decided that his path forward would be on a mound.

“I just tried to accept it,” Arias said this weekend via Cubs translator Fredy Quevedo. “I've learned that sometimes we have a plan, but then unexpected things happen.”

Earlier this offseason, the Cubs placed the 22-year-old Arias on the 40-man roster, which he called a “phenomenal” opportunity. Armed with a sinker, changeup and slider from a sidearm slot, Arias logged a 4.09 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings between Single-A Myrtle Beach and High-A South Bend in ‘23.

Cubs top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong walked by as Arias chatted with reporters and fired off a question to the young pitcher: “What’s it like to throw 100?”