The Chicago Cubs used the 88th overall pick to draft junior outfielder Jordan Nwogu Thursday night.
If Nwogu chooses to sign, which he plans to, the Cubs’ gain might just be bigger than the Wolverines’ loss. He capitalized on the 15-game sliver of 2020, posting a cumulative .353 batting average, .389 on-base percentage and .456 slugging against exclusively NCAA-Regional level competition, despite the lack of top-of-the-order protection in the season’s opening weekends.
Michigan’s offense ran through Nwogu in 2020, and the pressure to be ‘the man’ is evident in his metrics. His on-base to batting average differential is slim, and three steals in seven attempts yields an ugly percentage. His aggressiveness at the plate and on the basepaths showed Michigan coach Erik Bakich’s reliance on Nwogu to reach base and score. And with the rest of the lineup's struggles to drive in or advance Nwogu, Bakich’s decision to put all of the chips on an extremely capable player in Nwogu was understandable.
As other bats began to heat up and the Wolverines started non-conference play against weaker competition, it’s safe to assume that Nwogu would have become more conservative and efficient on the basepaths, similar to his improvement in baserunning from last season. In addition to experiencing upward trends in on-base and slugging percentages, he put up a .992 OPS last season when he was surrounded by Jordan Brewer and Jimmy Kerr.
On defense this season, Nwogu was thrust into a starting outfielder role due to the departure of Jordon Brewer and the injury to Jesse Franklin. He handled only 24 chances in 2019, a small sample size to predict future performance, but practiced diligently in the offseason after being a designated hitter for most of 2019.
“He took a million fly balls out there in left field,” Bakich said of his offseason.
In 2020, as a result from offseason practice, Nwogu handled 28 errorless chances and led the team in outfield assists.
The Wolverines won’t get the chance to see just how good Nwogu can become in the outfield. That privilege belongs to the Cubs, who know his offensive floor is high and who can help him reach his defensive ceiling.