The Chicago Cubs’ roster is full of talented pieces, but there are only so many spots. Matt Szczur has been a solid player off the bench in his time at the major league level, but is there room on this year’s roster?
With Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez splitting time at second for the Chicago Cubs, that means Zobrist will spend some time in left field. You also have Kyle Schwarber who will play left at times. So where exactly could Szczur fit in this season? Let’s take a look.
Szczur has had a difficult time solidifying a starting spot on the Cubs roster since making his debut in 2014, and that’s no surprise. The outfield has a boat load of talent, in past years, and this year.
You have Jon Jay who the Cubs acquired in the off season in center. Then also Albert Almora Jr, who will spend time in all three outfield spots. As noted, Schwarber and Zobrist will split time in left.
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This spring training is huge for Szczur. At this point it’s not known if Joe Maddon will even want to carry an extra outfielder on the opening day roster.
Through just two games, Szczur is off to a hot start. In Sunday’s World series rematch with the Indians, he went 2-for-2 with an RBI. He will have to take the opportunities given to him this spring and shine in order to solidify a roster spot.
The one place i could see him getting some playing time would be right field. It’s usually Jason Heyward out there, but if he doesn’t produce at the plate this season, I could see the Cubs giving Szczur some innings out there.
The 27-year-old Szczur has talent. In fact, he’d probably start on most big league clubs. But, in Chicago, he simply hasn’t earned the right to start over pieces like Schwarber or Heyward, who brings Gold Glove-caliber defense to the table.
The role he’s enjoyed in past years has been off the bench as a pinch-hitter. That could definitely happen once again in 2017.
Through just two games this spring, Szczur is hitting the ball very well. That type of performance will have to be there throughout all of spring training. Joe Maddon has several quality bench options as Cactus League play progresses.
On the bench, you’ll have Miguel Montero, Jon Jay or Almora Jr., depending who is playing center field on that given day. Szczur will have to give Maddon a reason to give him a roster spot come April 2.
Although Szczur only registered 185 at-bats in 2016, he hit .259 with just five homers. The one thing he was well known for in the minor leagues, however, was the ability to steal bases.
Through four seasons in the minors, the former Villanova standout swiped 140 bags. But at the big league level, he’s only stole four bases. This was clearly a vital part of his game coming up through the minors, and a return to his roots could bode well. It will give Maddon more of a reason to bring him in the game, whether it’s to pinch-hit or pinch-run.
It’s definitely no sure thing Matt Szczur will be on the Opening Day roster. But if he continues to produce offensively and play solid defense this spring, he will make Maddon’s decision harder than most anticipate.