Matt Szczur, who hit no more than four homers in any of the last three seasons in the minors and majors, hit his fifth home run yesterday in this Spring Training. He’s had 48 plate appearances this Spring.
Yesterday’s homer, by the way, was no cheapy, either:
Overall on the Spring, Szczur is hitting .349/.417/.837, which is among the best slash lines in baseball (it’s a top ten OPS among guys with at least 40 plate appearances). To be sure, I don’t think Szczur has suddenly gone from a guy who posted a .636 OPS last year at AAA to a guy who is an offensive force at the big league level. That doesn’t happen.
But Szczur has always been a superior athlete, and he didn’t focus on baseball, exclusively, until four years ago. That some things might click a little later for him than your typical prospect wouldn’t be shocking. As part of that development, the 25-year-old Szczur now does have a different stance/swing, as even a layperson can see when comparing the above with this video from September last year:
He’s now more crouched, and his hands are much lower. Am I telling you that’s why he’s exploded offensively? Nope. But I am saying it’s a noticeable difference, and the coaching staff has suggested it’s part of the reason he’s hitting for so much more power.
Maybe Szczur is a late-bloomer. Maybe the fact that he’s always had great speed and good contact skills will combine with a little more power to produce a guy who can hit .280/.330/.400 at the big league level (that’s actually not really any better than his career minor league line – it just has more SLG and less OBP – so I’m not making a dramatic leap if there’s actual improvement in his game). That’s not a star, but it’s a nice guy to have on the roster, especially when you pair it with the ability to play quality defense all over the outfield, and good speed on the basepaths.
With Chris Denorfia likely to hit the DL early, Szczur is probably going to start on the big league bench. Whether he can hold that job, and whether his Spring performance means much of anything when the cold and the more-focused pitching shows up, remain to be seen.
But, for now, we can dream on massive homers like that one above.