It has to be hard to be a position player in the Cubs’ minor league system. With most of the regulars on the big league club signed through 2021, there’s not a lot of hope to make it onto the 25-man roster. It’s far from impossible, though. Ian Happ forced the Cubs to keep him around and David Bote has been up twice this year as a utility player.
If you perform, things will take care of themselves. You just have to go about your business and do the best you can while waiting for your shot. Over the last two years, shortstop Zack Short has made his way through the Cubs system at the pace of a top prospect. Along the way, he’s shown a penchant for getting on base at a near .400 clip and has flashed a little power to boot.
The Cubs selected Short out of Sacred Heart in the 17th round of the 2016 draft, after which he spent most of the the remainder of the season at Eugene. He split 2017 between South Bend, where he lead the league in walks and Myrtle Beach, where he continued without missing a stride. As a result, he found himself assigned to AA Tennessee to begin this year. Three levels in a year and half is pretty, pretty, pretty good.
This year, though, has been a strange year for Short. For the first time in his pro career, he struggled to reach base and his power game was lacking. He hit only .187 with a .322 OBP in April and batted only .233 in May, tallying seven home runs in those two months. He did have a very good OBP of .365 in May, a signal of better things to come
But first, Short had to bottom out. He went 3-for-26 to open the month of June and his average fell to .198 on June 8. The very next night, he went 3-for-4 with 4 RBI and it was only up from there. Over the last three weeks of June and through the first week of July, Short has been the hottest hitter in the Cubs system, batting .380 with three homers and 18 RBI. His OBP in that span is an amazing .470.
So what happened? Simply put, Short stopped striking out and starting making contact again. In April and May, he was whiffing at almost a 33 percent rate. Over the last four weeks, however he has only striking out at a 22 percent clip. Replace those strikeouts with hits and you can see how a hitter might improve his numbers a bit.
What I like most about Short is that, despite his troubles hitting, his walk rate remained consistent. His 14.7 percent walk rate is lower than the 18 percent he put up last at South Bend, but it’s above the 14.4 percent from Myrtle Beach. Rather than just view the numbers, the main thing is that he has been able to maintain that consistent approach across different levels.
That has helped to make up for what some might view as too low a batting average. Short has always sat between.240-.260 and had OBP splits between .360 to .400. This current four-week stretch is the highest of his career by far, so it will be interesting to see how long he can keep this going.
If he can sustain it, does that earn him a ticket to Iowa, where he’s one step from Chicago, or the majors in general? And when he gets there, what position will he be playing? He’s played some third and second, but mostly…short. Get it?.
This isn’t really one of those situations to watch in terms of a September call-up, not yet anyway, but Short is making a name for himself and he just continues to produce at each level of the system. Whether and how he’s able to maintain his hitting and approach moving forward could put him in future conversations of next man up in Chicago.