The time in between the conclusion of the regular season and the conclusion of the World Series can often be a dry period for baseball reporters. Mainly because if the local team is not one of the eight teams competing in the post-season, then there is significant lack of news during the aforementioned period. That period could come to an end tonight. After a Giants victory on Saturday, San Francisco now is in a position to clinch the World Series title with a victory against the Detroit Tigers tonight.
But until the World Series reaches a conclusion, we can indulge in the various reports surfacing from the Arizona Fall League. Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Gonzales has been following the action in Arizona, and focused on Chicago Cubs outfielder prospect Matt Szczur in a recent article. Szczur, who was drafted by the Cubs in the fifth round of the 2010 first year player draft, was heavily courted by former General Manager Jim Hendry. Hendry was successful in convincing Szczur to commit to making a career as a baseball player rather than a football player. Though, the $1.5 million signing bonus probably didn’t hurt either.
The article from Gonzales focuses on the opportunity that has been given to Szczur in playing in the Arizona Fall League. Szczur struggled during the 2012 season with the Tennessee Smokies, and the Fall League provides the chances for the prospect to make adjustments and continue his ascension to the Major Leagues. Crediting Szczur for taking pitches and working deep at bats, one of the biggest qualities that the new regimes looks for in offensive players, Gonzales suggests that there is hope in the organization that Szczur could be the future lead-off man for the Cubs.
In January of 2011, the stock was high on Szczur. Whether it was purely hype from Hendry remains to be seen. Szczur went unmentioned during a majority of the 2012 season and that was due to the struggles that he endured after being promoted to the Double A level. Szczur began the season with the Daytona Cubs and he appeared to be trending towards the top of the Cubs’ prospect list. In 352 plate appearances with the Daytona Cubs, Szczur hit .295/.394/.407/.801 to go along with 24 extra base hits. Szczur was then promoted to the Tennessee Smokies and that is where the struggles ensued. In 158 plate appearances with the Smokies, Szczur hit .210/.285/.357/.641.
There could be any number of reasons for Szczur’s struggles with the Smokies in 2012. Most likely, Szczur was having difficulty in adjusting to the style of play from Class A baseball to Double A baseball. That is relatively common for baseball prospects. If the road to the Major Leagues was easy, then it would not have taken Josh Vitters five seasons to finally make his Major League Debut with the Cubs. Nonetheless, there has been some speculation that since Szczur was a “Hendry” prospect, he might not be as valued by the new regime as he originally was.
That does not appear to be the case as Jason McLeod indicated that Szczur does have value to the Cubs and the future of the Major League team.
“Matt is working on all aspects of his game that will be a factor when he’s in the major leagues,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ director of scouting and player development. Chicago Tribune
The Cubs have several outfield prospects that figure to play a part in their rebuilding effort. Szczur, Brett Jackson, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora have all been mentioned as future starting outfielders for the Cubs. That is where the problem lies. There are only three starting outfield spots on a Major League Baseball team. With the exception of Jackson who has already appeared in the Major Leagues; Szczur, Soler, and Almora all figure to be on the same path to the Major Leagues. That may give credence to the thought that Szczur, Soler, and Almora are the future starting outfield for the Cubs. Jackson will be given an audition period over the next couple of seasons, though I wouldn’t put it past the Cubs to trade their former top prospect .
Szczur may have fallen off the map as a result of a poor finish to the season with the Smokies, but the Cubs’ still have their Szczur GPS set for Wrigley Field.