Cubs Hail Szczur, Look to Buy a Vowel
The speedy Szczur was hitting 261/315/312 with 30/78 BB/K (7% BB rate & 17% K rate) and 30 SB (7 CS) in 116 games (457 PA) at Iowa, but he hit 315/374/339 over his last 30 games (134 PA). He came into the 2014 season with a 285/353/397 slash line with 177/296 BB/K (8% BB rate & 14% K rate) and 90 SB (31 CS) in 375 career minor league games (2137 PA), He is a right-handed hitter, and he can play all three outfield positions, although he mostly hits lead-off and plays CF. He was rated both the Cubs #3 prospect and the fastest runner in the organization by Baseball America in 2012.
Szczur was selected by the Cubs in the 5th round of the 2010 June draft out of Villanova University, where he was a two-sport star (football and baseball). He was considered a "tough sign" because it was thought that he would likely choose pro football over pro baseball, but the Cubs were able to sign him by giving him a $100K bonus and allowing him to continue to play college football. Szczur is the second player drafted and signed by the Cubs from the 2010 draft to reach the big leagues (41st round pick RHP Dallas Beeler was the first), although Cubs 2010 33rd round pick RHP Matt Stites (who did not sign) made his MLB debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 19th.
And Szczur was indeed an outstanding college football player at Villanova, helping to lead the Wildcats to the NCAA FCS National Championship Game in 2010. He was considered a definite NFL prospect at the time, and was a "quadruple-threat" college football player, once scoring four touchdowns in a single game... one rushing, one passing, one receiving, and one on a punt return
To keep Szczur from going to the NFL Combine in February 2011, the Cubs released him from his original contract and immediately re-signed him to new contract with a substantial bonus equivalent to "1st round money" ($1.5M). Because he was released and then re-signed by the same club, Szczur became eligible for the MLB Rule 5 Draft after that season (two years earlier than he otherwise would have been eligible), and so the Cubs had to place him on their MLB 40-man roster in November 2011 to avoid possibly losing him in the December 2011 Rule 5 Draft.
Because he was added to an MLB 40-man roster so early in his career, Szczur is eligible for a 4th minor league option in 2015.
Szczur is probably best-remembered as the guy who donated bone marrow to a young leukemia patient in the middle of the 2010 college baseball season, thus derailing his season (and potentially negatively impacting his future career in pro sports), but saving the life of the child.