In Sunday’s win over the New York Mets at Citi Field, Matt Szczur became the seventh player this season to make his respective big league debut for the Chicago Cubs.
After entering the game as a pinch-runner in the eighth, he stayed in the game in right field, appearing in one at-bat, which came in the ninth and ended in a fielder’s choice.
It wasn’t particularly memorable, but given Szczur has flown under the radar in the past couple of seasons, it was almost a fitting storyline. The 25-year-old once ranked as highly as the 64th-best prospect in the game, according to Baseball Prospectus. But since that ranking, which was prior to the 2012 campaign, the outfielder has been rarely-mentioned amongst prospect enthusiasts.
Perhaps it’s because he batted just .261/.315/.312 this season with Triple-A Iowa. Last season, with Double-A Tennessee, he posted comparable numbers, albeit better across the board – .281/.350/.367. With the likes of Kris Bryant and the recently-promoted Javier Baez launching mammoth home runs and driving in runs on a nightly basis, Szczur has faded into the backdrop, partially because of the type of the player he profiles as.
The former Villanova football standout will never win a Triple Crown. He’ll probably never even hit 20 home runs in a season. Between Low-A Boise and Class-A Peoria back in 2011, he hit a career-high 10 home runs. Since then, he hasn’t hit more than four in a campaign.
That being said, he’s stolen 30 bases this season with Iowa. He swiped 22 with Tennessee last year. And back in 2012, Szczur took 42 bases with him between Daytona and Tennessee. He’s shown that he can be a reliable outfielder and his speed – although not among the game’s best speedster prospects – can create issues, at times, for opposing defenses.
The former 2010 fifth-round pick may have lacked any notable output during his big league debut, but on a young Cubs team, his work ethic and desire to win are sure to be key aspects of his role in the clubhouse in the season’s final month-plus.