Matt Szczur, Photo by Mark LoMoglio/

Ask and you shall receive. I mentioned recently that Matt Szczur had effectively addressed concerns regarding his running game by stealing bases at a highly improbable rate this season. That, of course, leaves the other area of concern lingering from 2011: his power. When we realize that Szczur has now driven an extra base hit in five of his last six games, concerns over his power start to fade. Over his last ten games (39 AB), Szczur is hitting .308/.413/.487. In other words, he’s doing just fine. Message received, Matt. Now, about your inability to do back flips on the field…

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 9 – 13
Bad weather kept the Iowa Cubs off the diamond yet again. Iowa now heads on a small road trip hoping for nicer weather when they return

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 11 – 14
This time it was the Smokies turn to win a game with extra inning heroics. A tenth inning bomb put Tennessee ahead for good as they collected a 5-3 win.

Dae-Eun Rhee lasted four and a third innings in a start that was far from his best. He was credited with all three of Jacksonville’s runs on six hits, four walks, and five strikeouts. Scott Weismann, Kevin Rhoderick, and Marcus Hatley all pitched well out of the bullpen, however. Hatley pitched the final three innings, struck out four, and got his first win of the season.

Tennessee had just eight hits in this game, but they put enough of those hits together to stage a three run rally in fifth. After that burst the bats were quiet until the tenth when Jonathan Mota, already the hero of one game this season, launched a two run bomb that put the Smokies ahead for good. Mota has now hit two home runs in 2012, and both proved to be game winners.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 7 – 16
The Daytona pitching was simply not good in this game. The Cubs kept it close, but the final read 6-4 against them.

Zach Cates has struggled all season, so in that light his five inning performance is actually encouraging. He gave up three runs on five hits and a walk, striking out only two. That was enough for him to be dealt his fourth loss of the season. Hayden Simpson made his first appearance out of the bullpen, and it did not go well. Just like we have seen in recent starts, he could not consistently find the strike zone. Ty’relle Harris finished off the game with no further damage except a solo home run.

Szczur’s double was part of a two for four game. Nelson Perez was also two for four, but his extra base hit went for three bases. Richard Jones also doubled. Altogether the Cubs left only five on base and went two for six with runners in scoring position.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 10 – 14
One big inning is all it takes for a good pitcher to ensure a win. That was the formula for the Chiefs in their 5-2 triumph.

The two headed monster of Ben Wells and Kyler Burke were on the mound for Peoria, this time with Wells starting and getting the win. This was one of Wells’ best games of the year. He went five and a third with just two hits, three walks, and three strikeouts. Burke was not quite that effective in his innings, although he did strike out more than Wells (Burke had four). Regardless, Burke kept the Chiefs in the lead and that was enough for him to earn his first save of the season.

Peoria pounded out ten hits, so it comes as no surprise that there are plenty of players who had a good game. Even among that crowd Taylor Davis stands out. Going two for three with a walk is good. Seeing that one of those hits was a double is even better. Best of all, the other hit was Davis’s first home run of the season. Oh by the way, it was a grand slam.

The Chiefs also turned three double plays in this game, with second baseman Zeke DeVoss in the middle of two of them.

  • Norm

    Is Szczur’s steal rate all that good?
    Before yesterday he was 11/14, 78.5%…that’s fine. Now he’s at 80%, which is good….but its small sample. If he’s caught next time its back down to 75% which is the minimum a base stealer should be at.

    • Brett

      It’s interesting – it’s at once a small sample, but also a huge number for one month. Just kind of interesting.

    • Luke

      Last season he stole a grand total of 24 bases in 109 games, or roughly one base every 4.5 games.

      This season he has stolen 12 in 23 games, or roughly one base every 1.9 games.  If he continues to steal bases at this rate, he’ll finish the season with 74 stolen bases.  That’s the rate I was referring to.


      • DocPWimsey

        He could have problems keeping up the stolen base attempts per game rate; a lot of base-stealers have noted that this really wears you down over the course of a season, to the point where it interferes with their hitting and fielding.

  • mark

    Here’s Ryan Kelley’s long and glowing appraisal of Szczur. To say that Kelley likes Szczur would be a huge understatement.

    • When the Music’s Over

      Nice to read such a positive article. Especially when people like Kevin Goldstein appear to hate on him so much.

      • mark

        God knows the Cubs need a prospect or two like this.

      • Small Sample Size Nazi Sez

        I think Goldstein and Law like him, they’re just not ready to put him into an elite prospect category yet. I think Goldstein is concerned that his speed doesn’t show in his fielding yet and he hasn’t shown that he’s an elite hitter for the position yet. I do think a lot of their bias just has to do with Szczur’s age and level.

        • SirCub

          Like the name. We need one of those around here.

    • djriz

      Thanks, Mark.

      How can you not root for this guy for the person he is?

  • Brian

    Luke- Is G. Concepcion lined up to start for Peoria Saturday night against Quad Cities?

    • Norm

      Well, he started today and couldn’t get out of the first inning, giving up SEVEN runs and only 2 outs…

      • Kyle

        I wonder if we’ll get a velocity report this time.

      • Brian

        Maybe I don’t want to see him Sat. night! Wow, two bad first innings in first, two outtings, not good.

        • Jeremy

          I think we need to give him an adjustment period before we start to panic. American baseball is much different then Cuban baseball.

  • Jeremy

    A couple questions for you:

    Szcur seems to be hitting his stride, and of course I don’t and I’m sure the Cubs don’t want to rush him but any chance we could see a promotion to AA in the next six weeks or is he going to be at High A all year?

    Vitters seems to be struggling really bad after a hot start, What are the issues with him?

    • Ryno G

      There’s almost zero chance Szczur stays in Daytona all year with him already on the 40 man and everything. It would have to take a serious injury to derail him from getting to AA sometime this summer.

      • Cedlandrum

        Szczur with two more hits and a stolen base today. He is playing very good right now.

        • Jeremy

          yeah I saw he was 2/3 with a triple and a stolen base.

    • Luke

      Szczur should be in Tennessee in the not too distant future.  I think mid June at the latest.

      I’m not sure anything out of the ordinary is wrong with Vitters.  When he arrived in Triple A, he had to adjust to Triple A pitching.  That did not take long.  But then, once teams had some reports on him, other pitchers adjusted to Vitters, and his number went down.  Now, Vitters is working on how to adjust to those adjustments.

      This is a fairly normal progression when any player arrives in a new league.  It may take him a few weeks to make the necessary adjustments, but it is too early to be worrying about him just yet.

  • Deez

    We are putting too much credence in his current steal rate. He is only at High A. Let’s see how he does as he escalates up the minors. 11 steals look great, but again, what do they do for the big league club?

  • http://Bill Bill

    G. Conception hammered for 7ER in 2/3rds an inning today. So far not so good for the prized Cuban.

  • Small Sample Size Nazi Sez

    Is this Szczur’s first or second option year? Didn’t he start burning options last year due to the contract screw-up?

    Also, I don’t think he’s as polished as that article would have you believe. Polished hitters usually have dominant lines in the minors. Szczur is more”above average”.

    • Brett

      First. The screw-up (and “screw-up” might be a bit unfair, I’m not sure we know exactly how it played out in terms of whether or not the issue was avoidable – we just know he’s on his “second” contract with the Cubs) forced the Cubs to put him on the 40-man in December, so this season is his first option year. He’ll get a fourth option year, though, I believe, so he won’t be out of options until after 2015.

      • Small Sample Size Nazi Sez

        Oh, good. I was really worried they might have to rush him up due to that second contract. I really do like Szczur I just know it might take him a bit longer to get his baseball skills shaped up.

  • mark

    Something to keep in mind re Szczur. Everybody talks about how he ran out of gas after being promoted to Daytona, only hitting .260 after tearing up A ball. What most of those people forget is that he had a terrific league playoff, leading Daytona to the FSL Championship and returning to the form he showed at Peoria. He hit .368 in the playoffs. It was an impressive turnaround and display of leadership.

  • B_Scwared

    “Now, about your inability to do back flips on the field…”  – Please don’t tempt him into a Mike Harkey.

    Thanks for the updates.  Very nice job so far Luke.