Matt Szczur, Photo by Mark LoMoglio/

Matthew Szczuris going to remember this one for a long, long time. The center fielder had been severely limited in playing time lately by a knee injury, so a game like he had on Wednesday had to feel extra special.

Hitting in his usual slot atop the batting order, Szczur was 3 for 6 with a double, two runs scored, and a one out grand slam in the fifth inning. That blast, his second homer of the season, was the blow that pretty much put this game away. That he hit it against the Mets only makes it all the sweeter, especially given what happened in Chicago just a few hours prior.

While this big game highlights that he has been hitting High-A pitching fairly well since returning from the injury, the Cubs should not be in any hurry to promote him. Szczur is still learning to translate the athletic abilities that could have made him an NFL draft pick into baseball abilities. There is no reason to rush him at this point in his career. I think he could be a very late season call up to Tennessee, but I would not expect anything more than that during the normal season. He could be a candidate for the Arizona Fall League, though, if he continues to play well.

Should he maintain his progress, I think his major league ETA is somewhere in 2014. His defense in center will not be an issue; the bat remains to be seen. If he can keep his OBP high enough he projects as a nice lead off hitter. If he can’t, he’ll probably look to wreck havoc on the bases out of the eight slot.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – The wind was blowing out in Iowa, but only Oklahoma City was able to take advantage in this 10-6 Cubs loss.
Tennessee – Tennessee got out hit 20 to 2 and lost at home 11-0.
Daytona – Since Daytona blew out the Mets 12-1, I won’t even talk about their three errors. Promise.
Peoria – Peoria tried to rally, but it was much too and way too late to make any real difference. The Chiefs lost 8-3.
Boise – The Hawks were swept in Spokane. The final of this one was 6-2.
Arizona – The game time temperature was only 102 degrees in this 5-4 Cubs win.

Performances of the Day

  • [Iowa] Jeff Beliveau pitched the eighth inning and allowed one hit while striking out the side.
  • [Iowa] Alberto Cabrera has been promoted to Iowa, and his first game there this season was both good an bad. On the bad side, he gave up two runs in two innings on three hits, including a home run. On the good side, he struck out five.
  • [Iowa] Josh Vitters‘ hitting streak grew another game as he went 2 for 4 with a double, his first triple of the season, and a walk.
  • [Tennessee] Not much went right for the Smokies in this one. Their best highlight was a triple by Logan Watkins, his sixth.
  • [Daytona] By spreading six strikeouts over six scoreless innings, Austin Kirk picked up the win.
  • [Daytona] Greg Rohan had a pretty good day at the plate himself. He finished the game 5 for 5 with two doubles.
  • [Daytona] John Andreoli stole his 26th base. Elieser Bonne replaced Rubi Silva in the middle of the game and stole his 12th.
  • [Peoria] Since arriving from Arizona all Dustin Geiger done has done is hit. After his 2 for 4 performance in this game his average is up to .339. The strikeout rate still concerns me, but Geiger is well on his way to moving his name into the Cubs’ third base prospect conversation.
  • [Boise] Shawon Dunston and Marco Hernandez both had two hits for the Hawks.
  • [Arizona] Trey Martin raised his early season average to .400 with a 3 for 5 game that included his first triple. Daniel Vogelbach is also hitting .400 after he went 1 for 3 with a walk.
  • [Arizona] Like much of the rest of the farm system, the Arizona Cubs seem to be more than willing to run. The base thieves in this game included Bijan Rademacher (twice), Neftali Roasio (a catcher), Rashad Crawford (twice), David Bote (he also homered), and Trey Martin.

Other Minor League Notes

  • The pitching in the Tennessee game did give up twenty hits, including seven off of Dae-Eun Rhee and ten off of Casey Harman, but it wasn’t all bad. Despite the inflated score the Smokies spared the bullpen and only used three pitchers. And on top of that, Jeffry Antigua did not have a bad game. He stranded the two runners he inherited from Harman, and over the course of the final two and a third innings he gave up just one run on three hits while striking out four.
  • After a rough road trip that resulted in a sweep in Spokane, the Boise Hawks finally get to come home and try to start a winning streak. Their opponent? The same Spokane team that just swept them. And just to top matters off, their bus broke down on the way home to Boise. This could be one tired team when they take the field tonight.
  • I’m starting to wonder if the Cubs are stretching knuckleballer Joseph Zeller into a starting pitcher. He had been pitching well out of the bullpen for Daytona (3.60 ERA, 29K / 13BB) so it came as a surprise to me when he was sent all the way down to Boise. He has been working out of the pen in Boise as well, but the appearances have been longer ones. He pitched two innings in his first game on June 23 and three and two thirds innings yesterday. I hope the plan is to stretch him out. I’d love to see the Cubs feature a knuckler as their fourth or fifth starter one of these years.

Farm System Standings

AAAIowa Cubs : 33 – 47.
Pacific Coast League American Northern Division – Second Place: 17.0 Games Behind.

AATennessee Smokies : 3-4
Southern League North Division – Second Place : 1.5 Game Behind

High ADaytona Cubs : 5-2
Florida State League North Division – Second Place : 0.5 Games Behind

Low APeoria Chiefs : 3-3
Midwest League Eastern Division – Third Place : 2.0 Game Behind

Short-Season ABoise Hawks : 4 – 9
Northwest League East Division – Fourth Place : 2.5 Games Behind

Rookie LeagueAZL Cubs : 5 – 2
Arizona Rookie League East – Second Place : 2.0 Games Behind

  • Idaho Razorback

    Our Boise team seems to hit as well as our major league team.

  • Cubbie Blues

    I’d love to see the Cubs feature a knuckler as their fourth or fifth starter one of these years.

    Did you hear all the catchers throughout the system cringe when you wrote that?

  • djriz

    Being a Vitters fan, I’m a bit concerned he started at 1st base yesterday. If it is just a stopgap until the Cubs promote someone (who?) AAA, fine. If they move Vitters there for the rest of the year, it could mean they are showing other teams his versatility. I read all the time he needs to work on his 3rd base defense so if they thought he could play 3rd for the big club, he still be there, right? Obviously he isn’t our 1st baseman of the future.

    Has anyone heard anything on this, or am I just ‘projecting’ bad news?

    • Cubbie Blues

      I looked at Iowa’s roster and they don’t have anyone listed as a first baseman. Justin Bour is the only one in Tennessee listed at 1st. This is his first year in AA and only has 308 PA. They probably want him to spend more time down there.

      • Luke

        I suspect Blake Lalli will be getting the bulk of the playing time at first.  Vitters played some first for Tennessee last season, so his splitting time between the corners is not new.  Rebel Ridling, if he can his bat going in Daytona, could be a candidate to jump to Iowa.  He had success with the Smokies last season, but for some reason could not carry that over to 2012.

        • djriz

          Your’e right. I don’t mind a few games at first (or the outfield for that matter) for Vitters. I would just be concerned if it became permanent, because that could mean the FO doesn’t like his play at 3rd.
          Again, I am a fan of his and I could be projecting.

      • djriz

        I realize the weakness at 1st in the high minors, but if they were committed to Vitters at 3rd, wouldn’t they bring up a Ridling or someone like him (yes even Bour)?

        I am a believer in giving your better prospects the highest priority, and moving marginal prospects around them.

        • Luke

          I suspect they are committed to finding Vitters a place in the majors rather than him holding down any one position.  While his defense at third is improving, there are still some real questions about his ability to stay at third.  Certainly when / if a guy like Lake or Baez is ready, there is no way Vitters’s defense keeps him on the hot corner.  Ian Stewart also clearly out classes him.

          But if Vitters has versatility, if he can play some third, some first, and some left field, then the Cubs have a lot more options.  Even if his defense doesn’t let him stay at third he could still have a very bright future as a versatile right handed bat off the bench (especially in a Cubs lineup that is trending lefty heavy).  In the hands of a manager willing to use his bench (and Sveum definitely fits that description), Vitters could easily get 300+ AB a year in that role.  Think of him as a better Jeff Baker, for example.

          If the Cubs do follow that path, then between Vitters and Clevenger the Cubs will have two good, young hitters who can provide all kinds of flexibility.  That’s a good foundation for a strong bench.

          • hansman1982

            If only he could play 2nd…

          • Brandon – AA Correspondent

            Based on my personal observations over the past 2 seasons:

            Vitters is an average third baseman. When he leaves his feet (diving left or right) he rarely gets a glove on the ball. He can catch the at’em balls, but anythign requiring range; he is limited. He can smash the fastball….which a nice.

            Iowa does not have a legit first baseman on the roster. Lalli will handle the duties, but I suspect, as Luke pointed out that Rebel Ridling is the answer for Iowa. I believe he was sent to High A to get back to playing 1B every day (he had been playing way too much LF in Tennessee and doing a pretty average job there on defense) and get his bat going and confidence back. Defensively, he is better at 1B than Bour….but Bour’s bat kept him at 1B and moved Rebel to LF. I believe Ridling goes from High A to AAA in a matter of a few weeks.

            Justin Bour is fine where he is at (selfishly speaking as a Smokies fan). He is putting up numbers and knocking in runs, but is not dominating. His defense is average (ability to scoop balls out of the dirt is a 4 on a scale of 1-10).

            Lake is NOT a shortstop. He simply lacks the ability to react and think at the same time. I don’t want to sound too critical of Lake, but as a shortstop he just makes too many mental mistakes. He is exciting (at times). I have seen him play over a dozen games at 3rd, and with his quick reaction, and no time to think, combined with his rifle of an arm….I project that he may be best suited at 3B. He still cannot hit a curveball….evidenced again last night.

            While I root for VItters and Jackson, and even Lake to make a MLB debut some time this season, I believe that all three of these folks are destined for at best, very average MLB careers. Again, I am rooting for them because watching them come up has been a lot of fun…..but we all have watched MLB baseball and we know what “the show talent” looks like……these guys are the product of their draft position and HYPE MACHINE that sites like this perpetuate (which is fun).

            Just my 2 cents…..


      • Spriggs

        Will be surprised if Vogelbach doesn’t get promoted to Boise soon, which could result in a domino of 1b promotions. Looks like the big guy has ironed out his issues and is swinging a real nice bat right now.

  • Idaho Razorback

    A couple of things that I noticed in the minor league box scores. Javier Baez is slumping, average down to .272 and Boise’s catcher Willson Contreres who I witnessed in person, throwing out 2 base runners at Spokane on Monday and is 7-10 in throwing out opposing basrunners so far this year, played right field yesterday?

    • Luke

      That makes some sense, but I don’t think it means the Cubs are not convinced Contreras can catch.  They have other guys they need to see behind the plate and at the same time want to keep Contreras’s bat in the lineup.  Right field is a good solution to that puzzle.

  • Idaho Razorback

    I see your point Luke but he’s thrown out 7 of 10 base stealers so far this year!

  • Jp

    I know this is thinking way ahead of myself but why not. I like we are moving Vitters across the diamond because it gives him one more place he can play on the big league club. I’d like to think of him as a less versatile Mark DeRosa or a more powerful Todd walker. Anyone remember TWalker playing some 1st to give D-Lee the day off occaiaionaly and playing primarily at 2nd. I think it’s good for Vitters to get him ready to play a couple different positions, “dare I say” he should get a few starts in the outfield too?;)

    • djriz

      Jp, if you and Luke are correct in your opinion that Vitters may not be able to handle starting at 3rd, then moving him around is fine. I agree with Luke, he could become a super sub, but with our weakness at 3rd at the ML level and high minors, I think he should be given a chance at 3rd (shortterm anyway).

  • AD

    I was at the Iowa Cubs game last night. Chris Rusin was on the mound and it did not look like he was the stuff to make in the bigs. OKC squared up every ball. Even the outs were loud. On the other hand, I was quite impressed with Vitters once again. He worked some good counts and really made great contact.

  • Jeff

    What if they move Vitters to Left Field and he takes off like Ryan Braun…without the steroids!

  • Brandon – AA Correspondent

    Quick report (to follow up on Luke’s report) on the AA Smokies from last night…..WE STUNK UP THE JOINT.

    The Birmingham Baron’s pitcher simply seemed to own the Smokies hitters. Not sure how….his FB was not particularly dominating, but he was able to throw his curveball for strikes. And actually hitting a curveball is not our strong suit (YES…..I am talking to your JUNIOR LAKE).

    Our defense was terrible, and our pitchers could not catch a break. I felt bad for Casey Harman who was let down by his defense and essentially left to the wolves to suck it up for the team. Jeffrey Antigua is a total smoke and mirrors pitcher. He throws 67 MPH and actually gets outs. It is unreal. I swear I am looking at a Dominican Jamie Moyer out on the mound. He struck out the Baron’s best hitter (#40….Martinez) twice last night….which was a shock. But….make no mistake, this kid is a junk baller who’s EFUS pitch is something of a sideshow act. But..he is left handed, and throws strikes…..and as we have seen, that may be enough for a ticket to the show. But from where I sit… is not exciting to watch.

    On a positive note…..the numbers don’t show it, but the Smokies could not catch a break on offense. Several liners were caught which robbed TN of sure hits, the Barons outfield made several diving catches and essentially it was a night of bad luck. If it could go wrong….it went wrong last night. Burgess and Bour squared up a few pitches…just had nothing to show for it.

    Back at it today for Game 3…..and supposed to be 99 degrees with a heat index of 107. BRING IT ON!!

  • http://bleachernation loyal100more


  • http://bleachernation loyal100more

    i got so excited i spelled his name wrong….VOGELBACH!!!

  • Ari Gold

    Jackson with only 1 K last night! Of course he only had 1 at bat. At this point would anyone be shocked if he hit .210 when he gets called up?

  • MightyBear

    Hey Scotty, beam Kirk up.

  • willis

    Vitters is really having a very good offensive year. I think at this point it’s fair and accurate to say his floor is a good utility bat off the bench. I’d love to see him called up in September and given the chance to start every day at 3rd, just to see how he looks against MLB players. I think his offense will be fine but like most of the questions where, will his defense be ok at this level?

    There’s only one way to find out. Sorry Ian Stewart.

    • Jp

      Yes god please give him the chance to play everyday even if it means letting Ian stewart’s hot bat cool off (;)). Its all about Vitters bat, if he tears up MLB pitching we will find a position for him. I think Lahair and Soriano have shown that. I don’t mean old Soriano I mean young 2B sory, he was terrible there but since he was raking everyone found a place for him. I don’t think Vitters is so unathletic he can’t be plugged in somewhere without being a major defensive liability. Just keep hitting big man.