By Todd Johnson
Some players just ooze baseball. From the way they tape their wrists to the way they get in the batter’s box and to the way they take infield, there’s just something about them that reeks of sweat, and dirt, Zack Short of the South Bend Cubs is one of those players. In the old days, he might be called a baseball rat. He could be the first one to arrive in the morning and the last one to leave at night. I don’t know if Short does that, but he comes across as a player who eats, lives, 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 off big dividends. The young South Bend Cubs, with the help of Short, have now surged into a tie for first place in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League.
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 well:
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 but his OBP was .352. He only hit 5 HRs and drove in 35 in 58 games. Still, the Cubs saw something in his approach they liked and selected him in the 17th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
He did spend some time (14 games) in Rookie League in Mesa. He hit .318 with an OBP of .500. After his promotion to Eugene, Short played mostly shortstop and helped lead Eugene to a Northwest League Championship. While he only hit .236, his OBP was an amazing .400. He had 1 HR in just 39 games.
I knew something was going to be a little different for Short in Spring Training. He spent a lot of time at 3B. I think he can play any position well as he has really good footwork on defense. So far this season, he’s played 3 games at 2B, 5 at 3B, and 4 at SS. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter where he plays as long as he plays.
After a rough cold opening weekend in 2017 where he went 0 for 9, Short’s average over his last ten games before Friday night was at .333. The team was swept in that opening series. Afterwards, Short was moved to the leadoff spot and the Cubs are 9-3 since. His ability to hit for average and get on base jump started the South Bend offense.
On a team with young kids, Short is providing leadership in the clubhouse and on the field. However, to me, his bat and approach are a potent combination. With a team made up of mostly 18-20 year old kids, 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.
At just 21, he is likely to spend all year at South Bend. 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. On the other hand, his OBP will always be his calling card.