Javier Baez and Matt Szczur Go Deep Against the Pirates (VIDEO)

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Javier Baez and Matt Szczur Go Deep Against the Pirates (VIDEO)

Chicago Cubs

In his minor league career, Matt Szczur hit a total of 18 homers. At AAA Iowa this year, Szczur had one home run in 414 at bats.

And now he’s got one homer at the big league level in just 42 at bats:

If he’s going to hit one, that’s what a Matt Szczur homer is going to look like: middle-in (pitcher didn’t even miss his spot), and Szczur gets his hands in *very* quickly, yanking the pitch with authority down the line. Also: it was a lot of fun to watch the dickering that took place to get the ball back from the young fan who ended up with it so that Szczur could have his first home run ball. Looks like he settled for a signed ball from the Pirates … you gotta hold out for a bat, dude. Or a car. Or an equity stake.

Szczur’s future with the Cubs is going to be among the more interesting 40-man roster stories this offseason. Szczur, 25, was so athletically gifted coming out of college that the Cubs gave him $1.5 million to sign him away from football, but, because of the way his contract was structured, he had to be added to the 40-man roster relatively early in his professional career. The athleticism always showed up as Szczur climbed the minor league ladder, but it was equally clear that he was a little behind the curve at the plate, perhaps in part due to the years spent playing football.

Szczur was rated as among the best defensive outfielders in the PCL this year, and could be a future reserve outfield option for the Cubs, if he’s able to hit a little bit. This year, at AAA, Szczur hit just .261/.315/.312, though he runs the bases well, doesn’t strike out much, and could continue to learn to use his speed to get on base more often.

If there is a significant roster crunch, Szczur could be a casualty, though you’d love to find a way to keep him in the organization for 2015 (he does have one option year left, so he could head back to AAA Iowa next season to continue developing offensively). Maybe he winds up being a late-bloomer, and emerges as a quality 4th/5th outfielder by mid-2015?

Javier Baez also homered last night against the Pirates, showing off a different kind of power:

That pitch could not have been more down the pipe. At least we know that Baez hasn’t lost the ability to punish a mistake, which is actually a huge part of succeeding in the bigs. Because pitchers make ’em.

I remain thoroughly optimistic about Baez’s long-term future as a quality regular, if not superstar, in the bigs. There will just be many adjustments along the way.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.