Cubs prospect profile: Zack Short
In MLB’s perennial First-Year Player Draft, picks made beyond the 10th round are announced on a call-in live stream with a still image of the MLB draft logo and the round number. For players on the cusp of realizing a dream, they hear their name rattled off in a nondescript manner by a team representative.
The Chicago Cubs selected Zack Short in this manner, with the 28th pick in the 17th round of the 2016 draft out of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. — 524th overall.
Short’s premier skill at the time was obvious and still has not changed. He can get on base and draw walks better than some of the best players in the minor leagues. This skill, combined with his ability to play multiple positions defensively at an average-to-above-average proficiency, has Short knocking on the door of playing time at the major league level.
After being drafted in 2016, Short jumped all the way to short-season A-ball in Eugene, Ore., for just under 40 games, where he posted a .401 OBP. The next season, he debuted with Class-A South Bend Cubs before being promoted to High-A as a 22 year old. Between the two levels, he posted a .383 OBP, well above the minor league average.
In 2018, Short had a power surge, hitting 17 home runs in the Southern League and pushing some to consider him as more of an impact bat outside of his ability to draw walks and drive up pitch counts. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken ring finger in his sixth game of the 2019 season after being hit by a pitch.
The Kingston, N.Y., native missed over two months and rehabbed for two weeks before returning to Triple-A Iowa in July. He struggled after the injury and was sent back to Double-A for a week. He returned to Iowa for five games before the season ended. The Cubs added him to their 40-man roster in November of 2019 to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, opening up a clearer path to a major league debut.
Short’s skill makeup is composed of mostly average tools. His raw power is considered just a tick below average by most scouts, but because of his plus approach at the plate, he’s able to tap into nearly all of his raw power in games — an uncommon characteristic for hitters. His speed, arm and defensive ability also all grade out as average.
A key piece of context, however, is that Short’s main position in the minor leagues has been shortstop. A prospect playing a premium position like shortstop to an average level defensively is valuable to any organization.
In the landscape of many big-power, weak-approach prospects with question marks around their ability to make contact or find a position defensively, Short is an anomaly. To some analysts, he may even be considered the top shortstop prospect in the Cubs system, ahead of the young and developing Aramis Ademan.
If there is a baseball season in 2020, there is a good chance rosters will be expanded beyond the standard 26 men to provide teams flexibility. A player like Short has a strong case to be added as a super-utility player.
Although his batting average may never impress, his defense, baserunning and ability to get on base will make him a quietly productive player for how late the Cubs drafted him in 2016. His major league debut could be just over the horizon.