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MLB draft 2017: Interview with Shane Baz

He’s draft-eligible and an exciting pitching prospect on the horizon.

Shane Baz throws a pitch
Image courtesy of Shane Baz

In an an effort to bring you the best coverage possible in the weeks leading up to the Rule 4 Amateur Draft, Bless You Boys has been sitting down with some of the best talent available to teams this June. The goal is to not only get to know these players better as young talent, but also as people.

First on the list is right-handed starter Shane Baz. He is rated by Baseball America as the 23rd best player available to teams this June.

At first glance, Baz is the exact kind of player the Tigers love to draft. He’s a righty with a high-heat fastball and a vicious breaking ball to match. He also sports something most Tigers prospects do not: control over what he throws. While he may sound too good to be available by the time the Tigers are on the board, he is a feasible possibility for Detroit due to the abundance of quality arms in this year’s crop.

This interview was conducted on the 15th of December, 2016.

Scouting Report:

Fastball: 65
Cutter: 60
Slider: 55
Curve: 50
Changeup: 50
Control: 50

Bless You Boys: How long have you been playing baseball?

Shane Baz: I’ve been playing baseball since I was three years old, four years old. I started off with Tee-Ball, on a team with my sister.

BYB: Have you always been a pitcher?

SB: I’ve always pitched, yeah, since I turned nine, but I’ve always hit also. I think I just pitched a lot less freshman year, I was also a right fielder, and I was still All-State as a hitter. But yeah, I’ve been pitching for as long as I’ve been a part of baseball.

BYB: A lot of scouts like you better as a pitcher, obviously, but out of curiosity, what do you enjoy doing more?

SB: I see myself as more of a pitcher, just because I like it more, it’s just because of my stuff. I think my pitching is ahead of my hitting and I’m really been working on it hard. But at TCU, I’m going to get to play two ways, and I’m really excited about that.

BYB: How committed are you to going to TCU?

SB: School is what I’m looking to do right now. I can’t wait to get out there to Fort Worth and just be a part of that program.

BYB: Obviously, since you play baseball, you have a favorite team. Which is that?

SB: I like the Astros. They’re the hometown team, I like what they’re doing right now, they’ve got a good, young team, so I think they’re gonna be good for a long time.

BYB: Do you have a favorite player or one that you liked a lot when you were a little kid?

SB: Derek Jeter. He was always my favorite growing up, but since he’s retired, I like Noah Syndergaard a lot. I also like Corey Kluber. I like to kinda model their game a bit too.

BYB: So if you like to model your game after Syndergaard and Kluber, who do you think you play most like right now?

SB: Right now? I would have to say Kluber, just because of my combination of pitches and my mechanics are a little similar. Just in my fastball, cutter, and also having a curveball and a changeup, working a two-seam, I think we have a lot in common.

BYB: You mentioned Noah Syndergaard, and that reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to ask a ballplayer but never have gotten the chance: Why the long haircut? Is that superstition, does it have something to do with the way it feels when you are pitching, or do you simply like the way it looks?

SB: The haircut? I mean, I just like the way it looks, I think it fits me and I think I’m gonna grow it back out for the high school year. I have yet to pitch with short hair, so I’ll see if it was good luck or not.

BYB: I saw in scouting reports about you that you have an very deep arsenal. The ability to throw five pitchesfastball, cutter, slider, curve, and changeupis rare. Which are you most confident in as a pitcher?

SB: I have to stick with my fastball. Obviously it’s gotta be your best pitch, you gotta live off your fastball, but besides that, I’d say my cutter. I’d say as a power fastball guy, I like to work off that a lot, and mix in the two-seam and cutter a little bit.

BYB: The scouts do give good reviews to both of both of those pitches. Would you describe the scouting process? I saw you were in a showcase called Tournament of Stars, would you tell us about that?

SB: Tournament of stars was awesome. There was just so many good players there, it was really fun just to be a part of that and live with a host family. It’s kinda weird being away from your parents. It was a lot of fun [to just play ball].

BYB: Playing in such a renowned showcase, you had to face some quality competition. Who would you say is the toughest batter you’ve had to face?

SB: Best hitter I’ve faced? Probably... Nick Allen. It’s like it’s impossible to get an out, you know? They only swing at good strikes, and anything out of the zone, they’ll lay off it, no matter how good of a pitch it is.

BYB: What was it like the first time you saw a pro scout at a game of yours?

SB: I think it was the beginning of my junior year and I saw—I want to say it was someone from the scouting bureau—and I was like “Was that really MLB? I don’t believe it that he was an MLB scout.” I’d had colleges look and that was really cool too, but an MLB scout is completely different.

BYB: When did you realize that a career in baseball was an actual possibility for you?

SB: I’m just kinda realizing it now. I’ve heard a lot of stuff about how high I could go in the draft this year and being up there with all the other names and it’s just crazy to see all the prospect rankings. I know they’re not all accurate, but to see them all be relatively in the first or second round is really cool for sure.

BYB: You said you really wanted to go to college. If you were taken in the first round, do you think that you’d still want to college, or would that sway you to play as a pro? Would it depend on the team that makes the selection?

SB: I think it would be a little bit of both. I mean, it would definitely be something to talk about with my family. It would probably matter a little bit what team, but that would be something to talk about with my family. If I was blessed enough to be that high of a pick, I’d have to consider it for sure.

BYB: What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not pitching or hitting?

SB: I like music a lot, I like to just hang out with my friends. I work out a lot too, that takes up pretty much all my time. That and school.

BYB: Do you have any goals that you’ve set for yourself here in your last year of high school?

SB: Not really, numbers-wise, but I just want to go out there and definitely get a state championship. I just excited to have as good of a year as possible. I definitely want to work on my fastball command. It’s already pretty good, but it can always improve and it’s always better when you’re throwing more strikes. I’m excited for this high school year. I’ve put in a lot of work this offseason and completely changed my body. I’ve already put on 13 pounds of good weight and getting in the weight room has made a big difference and I’m so excited to see how it translates to the field.

Thank you to Shane Baz for agreeing to speak with us at BYB and for providing the picture used in connection with this article.