CARY, N.C.—With 108 of America's best high school players divided into six teams, the Tournament of Stars provides a great opportunity for players to showcase their talent against the cream of the crop. One of the players to shine at last week’s event was Shane Baz.
A 2017 righthander from Texas, Baz wowed scouts by flashing a low-to-mid 90s mph fastball, along with a pair of other decent secondary offerings in his changeup and curveball. But his high-80s cutter is what caught the eye of scouts.
Baz grips his cutter similarly to a four-seam, with his index and middle fingers close together on the upper part of the horseshoe. The wicked rotation comes at release, when Baz allows his middle finger to slide off the ball and applies pressure with his index finger, giving the pitch its natural spin. From there, the ball hurls toward the plate at 86-89 mph, with a sharp, horizontal break. On certain occasions he will take velocity off the pitch, giving the offering more of a slider look.
Even so, Baz does not view the cutter as his best pitch.
"My four-seamer is probably my best," Baz said. "It jumps out of my hand, rises on the way to plate, and hitters have a really tough time catching up to it."
Baz induced numerous whiffs this week, mixing in his fastball and cutter well. Even while overpowering hitters now—his fastball touched 94 mph at Tournament of Stars, and he pitched at 90-93 most of the week—the rising senior knows he must focus on his off-speed for success at the next level.
"I need to improve my off-speed, but more so my changeup, because if I can throw it in any count, it'll make me an ever better pitcher," Baz said.
Baz struck out four batters in three innings on his first outing at TOS on June 22, but his talent is not limited to the mound—he also hit one of the two home runs of the entire event.
In his first at-bat, he pounced on a 90 mph fastball that was left up in the zone, resulting in a 407-foot moonshot to left-center field. While his first at-bat came three days into the tournament, the home run was not a surprise for anyone who knows Baz.
As a two-way player this season for Concordia Lutheran High (Tomball, Texas), Baz smashed eight home runs out of the cleanup spot and played third base when he wasn't on the mound.
The talented righthander is committed to TCU to pitch and play the field. With a Horned Frogs uniform in his future, Baz finds it easy to look up to TCU freshman standout Luken Baker.
"I do (idolize) him because we're both two-way players, can play first and also pitch," Baz said. "The way they treat him, that's exactly what I'm looking for in a college, he's an amazing player … I'd love to be able to play like him."
Baz’s sterling performance at TOS earned him a spot at the 18U National Team tryouts this fall in Texas. The chance to play with the nation’s best, while also being so close to home, is a special opportunity for Baz.
"Every guy that got picked for this team is a really, really, great ballplayer, and I'm just excited to be in the conversation with them," Baz said. "I'm excited to get a chance to represent my country, going home to Houston and playing ball with a great team."
Even with his success now, Baz knows he will have to continue to grow as a player, but wants to keep his sights set on the present.
"My first goal is to make this national team, and long-term to work as hard as I can and reach my ceiling." Baz said. "I don't' think I'm anywhere near it now, I gotta get bigger and stronger."
At 6-foot-2 and 184 pounds, Baz has a lot of room to add muscle to his athletic frame. He has size, and natural tools to grow both on the mound and at the plate.
However, after his week at TOS, Baz has brought up a buzz for his pitching and hitting. When asked which he prefers, “the wizard of Baz,” a nickname he picked up his first year in high school, looked to the sky in thought.
"I love both, but if I had to choose, probably pitching, because it might be a little ahead of my hitting," he said. "But I love to hit and play the field also," Baz said with a smile.