2023 1st-rounder Shaw soaking in first Spring Training

February 24th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- was still at the University of Maryland at this time last year. Now, the infield prospect is a few lockers down from Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ in the Cubs’ clubhouse, experiencing his first Spring Training and getting an expedited education on the path to the big leagues.

The Cubs’ first-rounder from the 2023 MLB Draft was in the starting lineup for each of the first two Cactus League games, roping a pair of hits on Friday against the White Sox and getting to face National League Cy Young runner-up Logan Webb in an 8-4 win over the Giants on Saturday at Scottsdale Stadium.

“It's so much fun being in that environment,” Shaw said on Saturday morning. “It really, at least for me, feels like a real game, like a [regular-season] game. I mean, everyone's so invested. It's really cool.”

MLB Pipeline ranks the 22-year-old Shaw fifth among the Cubs’ prospects and No. 54 on the latest Top 100 list for all of baseball. He has only 38 professional games under his belt, but Shaw is a polished hitter who Chicago feels has the potential to keep climbing quickly up the organizational ladder.

With Gold Glove winners Dansby Swanson and Hoerner entrenched at shortstop and second base, respectively, Shaw spent a lot of time this offseason working out at third base. He played second in the North Siders’ first two spring games and has plenty of experience at shortstop (Shaw took home the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation’s top collegiate shortstop last year).

Shaw has pointed to how Hoerner learned multiple positions in the infield and outfield to help hasten his road to the Majors. Hoerner appreciates how Shaw is viewing his own development path.

“In an ideal world,” Hoerner said, “we all play shortstop, center field or catcher, or whatever it is that we want to do the most. A guy like Matt’s hopefully in a position where his bat is ready, whenever that is, and I just hope that him and other guys never have defense as the reason they’re not in the lineup.

“If you have guys that can hit, you’re going to want them in there. For him, playing second, short, third, maybe some outfield, who knows, that gives him the opportunity to be there and to help us win.”

Shaw’s advanced skills as a hitter helped convince the Cubs to select him 13th overall in last summer’s Draft.

In 62 games in his final season for Maryland, Shaw hit .341/.445/.697 with 24 homers, 20 doubles, 69 RBIs, 18 stolen bases and more walks (43) than strikeouts (42). After signing with the Cubs with a $4,848,500 signing bonus, Shaw started his pro career with a three-game stop in the Arizona Complex League. He hit .500 (4-for-8) and slugged his first homer in affiliated ball.

From there, Shaw hit .393 (1.082 OPS) in 20 games for High-A South Bend and then hit at a .292 clip (.852 OPS) in 15 games for Double-A Tennessee. All together, he finished his debut season in the Cubs’ system with a .357/.400/.618 slash line to go with eight homers, nine doubles, four triples, 28 RBIs, 15 steals and 27 runs scored.

Behind the scenes, Shaw has been getting at-bats against some of the Cubs’ big leagues arms (relievers Héctor Neris and Adbert Alzolay among them) in live BP. In his first at-bat in a Major League spring game, Shaw pulled a pitch from veteran reliever Jesse Chavez into left at Sloan Park for an RBI double. He later followed that up with a single to right in the win over the White Sox.

“Whether it's live ABs, a spring game, Opening Day, playoffs, you're going to be excited,” Shaw said. “That's why you spend all these months in the offseason training, is to get ready for those moments.”

Cubs manager Craig Counsell said seeing players like Shaw get into Major League games is one of his favorite parts of the spring.

“There’s no question,” Counsell said. “A young player that’s getting his first shot in a Cub uniform and in a big league game, that’s fun, for sure.”

Talk about a whirlwind for a kid who was in college not all that long ago.

“Really, I'm just enjoying it while I'm here,” Shaw said. “Just all the opportunity to be here every day to be around these guys. I think the reflection will happen a little bit after, but right now, it’s just being able to really soak it all in and really enjoy it.”