MiLB.com's Road to the Show Scouting Report series spotlights players who are just starting their professional careers, focusing on what the experts are projecting for these young phenoms. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Cubs’ prospect Matt Shaw. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.
Matt Shaw’s skills at the plate allowed him to hit the ground running in the professional ranks.
The Cubs’ No. 5 prospect played at three levels last season in his first Minor League action, spending the bulk of his time with High-A South Bend and Double-A Tennessee. He finished second among 2023 Draftees with 97 total bases while batting .357/.400/.618 with eight homers, 28 RBIs, 27 runs scored and 15 stolen bases in 38 games.
The Cubs led all teams with seven players listed in MLB Pipeline’s recently updated Top 100 Prospects list. Shaw has moved up to No. 54, more than 40 spots higher than where he was slotted at the end of 2023.
Although there are some questions about his defensive future, the 22-year-old is capable of bouncing around to different spots on the infield. And his skills at the plate warrant a spot in the lineup on an everyday basis.
“It’s just a dynamic bat,” Cubs vice president of scouting Dan Kantrovitz told MLB.com in July. “He displayed the decision-making that he's capable of, the ability to make consistent contact, and then the ability to hit for damage. Typically, when you exhibit those three characteristics, it's a pretty good recipe for success in the future.”
The Springfield, Massachusetts native did not get much national attention by the end of his high school career at Worcester Academy. Especially as the pandemic shortened his senior season and that year’s Draft.
But he made up for lost time in the summer before beginning his college career at the University of Maryland. Shaw stayed local and played with the Worcester Bravehearts of the Futures Collegiate League in 2020.
Once he got to Maryland, his ability to hit and find the barrel was evident almost immediately.
Shaw was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team and was a Freshman All-American in 2021. He led the Terps in total hits (61), doubles (16) and batting average (.332), for which he also led all Big Ten freshmen.
After splitting his summer season between Worcester and the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game Collegiate League, Shaw came back for a sophomore season in which he batted .290 with a .986 OPS, 22 homers and 67 RBIs.
But even as he posted those terrific numbers, he was prone to being a little too aggressive at the plate. As he took to a more selective approach, his strikeout and walk rates improved alongside his slugging and OPS numbers.
He was able to really hammer down this approach during a championship season in the Cape Cod League the summer before his junior year. Over 36 games on the Cape, Shaw hit .360 with a 1.006 OPS. He collected 17 extra-base hits, including five homers, drove in 19 runs and stole 21 bases. Shaw was named the Cape Cod Summer Player of the Year.
Although he struck out twice as often as he walked on the Cape, he was able to turn that around during his final season at Maryland. Shaw drew 43 walks and was punched out 42 times. He also hit 24 homers, becoming the program’s all-time home run leader, and improved both his average (.341) and on-base percentage (.445) by more than 60 points from his sophomore season.
Shaw was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American after his final college season. He also won the Brooks Wallace Award, given each year to the top college shortstop in the nation.
Although he settled into the position during his sophomore season, Shaw did not play any shortstop as a freshman as he saw time at second, third and left field. On the Cape, he played more second base than shortstop and even got into two games at third.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound infielder was well-positioned to be a first-rounder – ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 16 Draft prospect – in a deeply talented class. Chicago selected Shaw with the No. 13 overall pick, and the two sides agreed on a slot-value bonus of $4,848,500.
After signing, Shaw reported to the ACL for a three-game stint, during which he collected four hits in eight at-bats, including a homer. He bypassed Single-A and was quickly promoted to South Bend in August.
Over 20 games in the Midwest League, Shaw batted .393 with a 1.082 OPS, 11 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs. He was promoted again and joined the Tennessee lineup as the Smokies made a run toward a Southern League title.
Shaw collected 19 hits in 65 at-bats (.292) over 15 games to finish the regular season. He homered three times, drove in nine runs and swiped six bases during that span. He didn’t produce much at the plate during the Smokies’ four postseason games, contributing just two singles. But he did score six runs and make a tumbling catch on a line drive at second base to secure the final out of the club’s first Southern League championship since 1978.
Shaw played just three games at shortstop after being promoted to Double-A, with most of his playing time coming at second base. He also got into three games at third, which may be his future home considering the Cubs’ current roster construction.
Here's what the experts at MLB Pipeline have to say about Shaw:
Scouting grades (20-80 scale)
“Lightly scouted and recruited as a Massachusetts high schooler, Shaw blossomed into the highest pick ever out of the University of Maryland when the Cubs selected him 13th overall last July. After winning the Cape Cod League batting title (.360) and MVP award during the summer of 2022, he set the Terrapins’ career home run record (53) and was named Big Ten Conference player of the year last spring. He continued to rake after turning pro for $4,848,500, hitting .357/.400/.618 with eight homers and 15 steals in 38 games while reaching Double-A.
Shaw grew up a Red Sox fan and models his game after Dustin Pedroia. He walks a similarly fine line between aggression and discipline at the plate, repeatedly turning his right-handed swing loose yet still making consistent hard contact. He has no discernible weakness, thriving against both lefties and righties and against all types of pitches. He uses the entire field well, and his solid power plays to all parts of the park.
Shaw’s baserunning instincts enable him to make good use of his solid speed. He played second base as a college freshman before moving to shortstop, where he has enough range but his fringy arm is a liability. Chicago is set up the middle with Gold Glovers Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson, so Shaw spent much of the offseason working at third base, the club’s biggest position of need.”
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.