PITTSBURGH – Pirates’ first round pick Shane Baz turns 18 years old tomorrow. He celebrated today by officially signing with the Pirates, getting a slightly over-slot $4.1 M bonus in the process.
“I might have the best 18th birthday of all time,” Baz said during his press conference this afternoon. He went on to describe his feelings on the day. “There’s no words to express that. This is a dream come true. I’ve wanted to play professional baseball since I was three or four years old. To have this dream come true, it means everything.”
Baz had good things to say about the organization the night he was drafted, and that continued tonight, beyond the normal cliché talk that you’d expect from a player who is receiving a multi-million dollar bonus from the organization. He noted that the reason he decided to sign — he was rumored to be one of the most difficult players to sign in the draft — was in part because of the organization he landed with.
“Their track record of everything, not only development,” Baz said on what he liked about the organization. “They’re an unbelievable franchise. Their history, the guys that they’ve produced have been some of the best big-leaguers that there’s ever been. That was something that I just couldn’t pass up. … Their development has got to be bar-none, especially with the pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Jamo. Guys like that really proved their development to be as good as anybody’s.”
The Pirates haven’t taken a prep pitcher in the first round since drafting Jameson Taillon in 2010. That will draw some inevitable comparisons. They’re two different pitchers, but the upsides as top of the rotation guys could be similar.
“He has so many things we’re looking for in young players,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said. “The ability speaks for itself — the explosiveness of the fastball, the ability to move the fastball around and have it do different things, to spin a breaking ball, the feel for the changeup, the size, the athleticism, the delivery, the arm action, how it all works — so from a baseball trait standpoint, he checked a lot of boxes for us.”
Huntington also noted that the Pirates got to know Baz and his family. Pirates’ scouting director Joe DelliCarri discussed the same thing the night of the draft. The Pirates tend to bring in good character guys, and it seems like this is another example where they not only drafted for talent, but drafted for the person.
“Anybody that got a chance to meet him or spend time with the family raved about him and raved about them,” Huntington said. “When you get both sides of that, you feel pretty good about the addition. We understand that it’s going to be hard. He’s now going to face the best players that he’s faced outside of Team USA. There will be some long, hard days and it’s not going to be easy, but we believe we can help him through that and we believe that he’s got a great foundation that’s been put in place by the whole family and by all the hard work.”
It hasn’t been an easy road to date for Baz. He moved up in the draft rankings this year from the start of the season, and really improved his stock in the last year.
“I can honestly say I wouldn’t have expected this,” Baz said. “At this time last year, I had finished my junior year of high school. I was starting the showcases and I think I was one of the last guys on the list to those things. I made my mind up that I was going to commit to every pitch, commit to the training I was doing off the field and seeing what I could do with it. Even after the season was over and I put down the ball for a couple of months, I was in the weight room five times a week just trying to get as good as I can. That’s kind of turned into my work ethic. I’m definitely going to carry that over.”
Baz will spend the day in Pittsburgh, exploring the city for the first time. He will then head down to Bradenton, where he will make his pro debut with the GCL Pirates at some point in the next month after he gets built back up. That will allow for the first opportunity to see Baz’s stuff, and to see what the Pirates liked so much about him.