Some players just ooze baseball. From the way they tape their wrists to the way they get in the batter’s box to the way they take infield practice, there’s just something about them that reeks of sweat and dirt. That’s a good thing, mind you. Zack Short of the South Bend Cubs is one of those players.
In the old days, he might have been called a baseball rat, the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. I don’t know if Short does that, but he comes across as a player who eats, sleeps, and breathes baseball.
Coming from a small school like Sacred Heart University, Short was not on the list of the top shortstops in the country after his junior year. The Cubs took a gamble on the young infielder and it looks to be paying big dividends. With Short’s help, the South Bend Cubs have now surged into first place in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League.
5’10”, 175 pounds
Throws R, bats R
21 years old
Drafted 17th round, 2016
Plays three positions
Has some pop in his small frame
Great eye and approach, works counts
Areas of Concern
Size, or lack thereof
What others say
Scout.com’s Mike Nester summed up Short’s college career thusly:
At Sacred Heart, he hit .324 as a freshman to earn Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors and led the NEC with nine homers and 33 walks as a sophomore. Short should battle for a starting spot at South Bend and will likely start the year in the MWL.
His junior year did not go well. His average slumped to .241 and he only hit 5 home runs with 35 RBI in 58 games, but he did post a .352 OBP. Still, the Cubs saw something in his approach they liked and selected him in the 17th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
Short did spend some time (14 games) in Rookie League in Mesa, where he hit .318 with an .500 OBP. After his promotion to Eugene, Short played mostly shortstop and helped lead the Emeralds to a Northwest League Championship. While he only hit .236 with a single home run, his OBP was an amazing .400 over 39 games.
I knew something was going to be a little different for Short in Spring Training when I noticed he spent a lot of time at third base. So far this season, he’s played four games at second, seven at the hot corner, and six at shortstop. In the end, it really doesn’t matter where he plays as long as he’s out there. Given his excellent footwork, Short can play any position well.
After a rough opening weekend during which South Bend was swept and Short went 0-for-9, he was moved to the leadoff spot and the Cubs are 15-6 since (as of 4/28). The ability to hit for average and get on base jump started the South Bend offense.
On a team with a bunch of guys who are still in their teens, the 21-year-old Short is providing leadership in the clubhouse and on the field. His bat and approach are a potent combination as well, as Short can set the example on how to work counts to get to a specific pitch in a specific zone or to coax a walk.
He is likely to spend all year at South Bend, where I think he will continue to play multiple positions. Ideally, I see him more of a second baseman. However, playing three positions enhances his profile. I am interested to see if he can sustain a near .300 batting average over the course of the spring and into summer. Regardless, his OBP will always be his calling card.