Szczur Advancing Along Nicely as Solar Sox Lead-off Hitter
The Mesa Solar Sox were drubbed by the Peoria Javelinas 9-2 yesterday in AFL action at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.
Only two Cubs played in the game, as Matt Szczur got the start in CF and batted lead-off, and Javier Baez hit 5th and played SS.
Szczur continued his hot hitting with a 3-4 day (he's now hitting 368/478/421), grounding a single through the 5.5 hole in his first AB, bouncing a chopper down the LF line (ball bounced just beyond the outstretched glove of the diving third-baseman) for an RBI double in the 5th, and collecting an infield single in the 8th (grounder hit to almost the exact same place as his 1st inning single, but this time the Peoria SS was able to back-hand the ball, with Szczur beating the throw to 1st). He also flied out to LF in the third inning.
The 23-year old Szczur appears to be developing into a decent lead-off hitter, and he's a good defensive CF, too. He's probably not ever going to be a slugger (his stroke is similar to Darwin Barney's), but he is starting to show a propensity for working counts and drawing walks, and if he can do that, he could be a legitimate lead-off hitter and CF (although whether that would be with the Cubs or some other MLB club is still TBD).
The ex-Cub Szczur reminds me of the most is Bob Dernier. If Szczur makes it, that's his comp... Bob Dernier.
Szczur hit 295/394/407 with 38 SB (12 CS) in 78 games at Daytona before a mid-season promotion to AA Tennessee, where he struggled, hitting just 210/285/351 in 35 games. But the AFL is approximately equivalent to AA, so if he can keep up his solid stick-work throughout the AFL season, that could bode well for Szczur having some success at AA next season.
Meanwhile, Baez went 0-4 in the game.
The 19-year old Cub batted in the bottom of the 1st with one out and the bases loaded, and popped-up a 2-0 pitch behind second-base. The Peoria RF dropped the ball while trying to make a running catch, but was still able to get a force-out at 2nd base as the runner at 3rd base scored. So no error was charged (because Peoria got an out at 2nd base), and Baez got an RBI (because the runner at 3rd scored).
Baez struck out (swinging) in the 4th on a 3-2 pitch, lined-out to third in the 7th, and grounded out to third in his final in the 9th.
(In 21 PA over five AFL games so far, Baez has no walks and seven strikeouts, although he also has two HR & eight RBI).
Baez handled all of his chances at shortstop today flawlessly, making a couple of accurate off-balance throws to 1st base, and making a nifty catch on a knuckling line-drive.
The big difference between Baez playing shortstop versus playing 3rd base is that when he plays shortstop, he is at the center of everything, and he really seems to take pride in the role of "field captain." He talks to all of the fielders (infielders and outfielders), directs guys around, reminds them of how many outs there are, etc. But when he played 3rd base last week, he just stood there like he was lost in his own little world, he didn't talk to anyone, and he appeared to be disengaged from the game (while making an error or a near-error on every ball hit his way).