Results tagged ‘ Matt Szczur ’

Mesa Solar Sox fall in home opener

It wasn’t the strongest game for Cubs prospects Wednesday afternoon as the Mesa Solar Sox dropped an 11-3 decision to Salt River. Matt Szczur led off the bottom of the first with a single into left field. After advancing to second on a walk, he swiped third for his first stolen base of the fall. He was left stranded and finished the day 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout.

Rubi Silva batted second and recorded his only hit of the day on a soft grounder to the first baseman. He advanced to second on an error.

Cubs’ top prospect Javier Baez struggled Wednesday. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and left two on base. He also slid over from shortstop to third base, where he committed a pair of errors.

Cubs minor league pitcher of the year Nick Struck walked three in relief duty but didn’t allow a run in 1.1 innings pitched. He also struck out one batter.

The Solar Sox head to Surprise today to take on the Saguaros at 12:35 local time. Surprise is comprised of prospects from the Cardinals, Mets, Rangers, Red Sox and Royals. Cubs farmhand Dae-Eun Rhee is projected to start for Mesa.

Cubs kick off Arizona Fall League with a bang

Javier Baez went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI in his Arizona Fall League debut. (Photo by Rodger Wood)

Things couldn’t have started much better for the Cubs top prospects in the Arizona Fall League yesterday. Though the Solar Sox dropped the 6-5 opener to the Salt River Rafters Tuesday night, much of Mesa’s offense came from Cubs representatives.

Nobody had a better outing than shortstop Javier Baez, who got things going in the top of the second inning with a home run to center to make the game 1-0. Later in the game, Baez ripped a double into left, scoring two.

Leadoff man Matt Szczur was 0-for-2, but drew a pair of walks and dropped down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to second in his second at-bat. Pinch-hitter Rubi Silva led off the eighth inning with a single that got by the shortstop. Three batters later he would score to give the Solar Sox the 5-4 lead.

Even in limited action, Cubs pitchers fared well. Right-handed reliever Kevin Rhoderick gave up one hit and struck out three in 1.2 innings while righty fireballer Tony Zych struck out the only batter he faced in the ninth.

The Solar Sox have their home opener Wednesday at 12:35 local time. Again they’ll face Salt River, a team comprised of prospects from the Diamondbacks, White Sox, Rockies, Blue Jays and Nationals.

Solar Sox Notes: According to MLB.com, Dodgers prospect Yasiel Puig will sit out the Solar Sox season with a staph infection in his right arm. He is rated the organization’s No. 2 prospect.

Prepping for the Arizona Fall League

The month-long Arizona Fall League kicks off tomorrow night, pitting some of minor league baseball’s top young talent against each other through Nov. 15. Seven members of the Cubs organization will take part in the league with the Mesa Solar Sox. When the teams were announced in late August, Vine Line broke down the Cubs representatives. The Solar Sox will also include prospects from the Astros, Dodgers, Orioles and Tigers. Below is a list of the pitchers and position players, as well as how they fared during the 2012 season.

Pitchers: Astros prospect Jarred Cosart is the most highly touted arm on Mesa’s staff. Ranked the 76th-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com, the 38th-round draft pick has a fastball that can reach the high-90s with a solid curve and the beginnings of a great change-up. Fellow Houston farmhand Nick Tropeano had a solid 2012, posting a 3.02 ERA over 158 innings. The righty features a plus change-up, complemented by a nice fastball and slider. Orioles lefty Mike Belfiore made the transition to the bullpen in 2011, maximizing his strong fastball/change-up combination. The lone arm to see the majors this year was Tigers righty Luke Putkonen, who is from the Chicago suburb of Winfield. The 6-6, 210-pounder pitched in 12 games out of the Detroit bullpen, striking out 10 in 16 innings and posting a 3.94 ERA.

Catchers: Tigers farmhand James McCann headlines the trio of catchers playing for Mesa. A solid leader, McCann recorded 22 doubles this season and has a decent arm. He also recorded five stolen bases, which is nothing to scoff at for a catcher.

Infielders: The strength of the Solar Sox comes from the infield corps, which includes top Cubs prospect Javier Baez. It will be interesting to see where Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos sees time. With Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera locked in at third for the Tigers, the top third base prospect in baseball saw a lot of time in the outfield this season. Astros first baseman John Singleton is a smooth-swinging lefty who hits for average and power, as evidenced by his 21 homers and 27 doubles in 2012. Singleton, seen as baseball’s top first base prospect, also has a solid glove.

Outfielders: There will be a lot of eyes on Dodgers prospect Yasiel Puig this fall. In June, the Dodgers front office paid $42 million over seven years for the 21-year-old Cuban defector. Known for his raw power, Puig often draws comparisons to Cubs prospect Jorge Soler. Free-swinging Astros prospect George Springer still managed to hit .302 and draw 62 walks in 2012, while hitting 24 home runs and driving in 87. The five-tool prospect also stole 32 bases.

Farm Report Wrap-Up: Keep an eye out for some sleepers on Smokies roster

Tennessee Smokies infielder Logan Watkins was named the organization’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year. (Photo by Rodger Wood)

Today we continue our tour around the Cubs farm system, taking a level-by-level look at performances the organization hopes to build on in 2013. The Double-A Tennessee Smokies are next in the spotlight.

For all the talent we’ve written about in the lower levels of the Cubs system, it was the Tennessee Smokies who featured two full seasons from the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year.

Two nights ago, infielder Logan Watkins and right-hander Nick Struck were honored by Jason McLeod and farm director Brandon Hyde in a pre-game ceremony at Wrigley Field. Watkins was a 21st-round pick out of high school in the 2008 draft, and he’s shown a consistent ability to get on base throughout his minor league career. This year, he hit for a .281/.383/.422 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) and collected 76 walks in 588 plate appearances. His 13 percent walk rate was three percentage points higher than his already lofty career standards, and his slugging percentage was nearly 50 points higher despite having roughly the same batting average. In other words, it was a career year.

Of course, Watkins’ skill set is broader than just patience. He has versatility in the field—spotting at shortstop and center field in addition to second base—and the speed to rack up double-digit triples and stolen bases. He bats left-handed too. A 23-year-old sleeper to track as he likely moves to Iowa next year.

Struck also is turning out to be a late-round sleeper. A 2009 39th-round pick out of an Oregon community college, Struck emerged as the Smokies’ ace a season after he split time between three levels (A, AA and AAA). His 155 innings led the team, and he finished with a 3.18 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Just as importantly, his hits and walks allowed ticked down from a year ago, while his strikeouts climbed to just over seven per nine innings.

Struck isn’t a high-ceiling type—in other words, someone with a high-90s fastball or a wipeout breaking ball—but he’s succeeded with poise, pitch ability and a versatile four-pitch mix. He turns 23 this month and also is likely to wind up in Iowa next season.

Final Records:

First Half / 35-35, tie-second place, 7.0 GB

Second Half / 37-33, tie-second place, 4.0 GB

Storylines: This is a team that the Cubs front office hopes will develop some future contributors in Chicago. Matt Szczur struggled in his first taste of Double-A, but he has the toolset to hit for average and use his speed on the basepaths and in the outfield alongside Brett Jackson. Right-hander Trey McNutt has had mixed success since his breakout campaign two years ago, but this summer, the Cubs found a new home for his plus fastball and power breaking ball in the bullpen. Shortstop Junior Lake also is smoothing out rough edges, but he has a ceiling that few prospects in the higher levels can match. Outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha deserves special mention after a successful all-around campaign including a home run in the Futures Game.
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Farm Report Wrap-Up: Daytona featured key prospects on left side

Outfielder Matt Szczur stole 38 bases for Daytona in 2012. (Photo by Rodger Wood)

Today we continue our tour around the Cubs farm system, taking a level-by-level look at performances the organization hopes to build on in 2013. The high Class-A Daytona Cubs are next in the spotlight.

They may have dropped from Florida State League champions to last place, but the Daytona Cubs featured several intriguing position prospects worth keeping an eye on. And it’s the continued development of that talent that’s going to be vital for the Chicago Cubs in the coming years.

Chief among them is Javier Baez, who spent the last month of the season in Daytona Beach. He’s become the organization’s quickest climber since being drafted out of high school in 2011. Since his mid-August signing last summer, Baez has played in four different leagues—at the Rookie and three Class-A levels. (He spent the season’s first two months in extended Spring Training before resuming his rapid ascent.) Though Baez batted just .188 in 86 plate appearances for Daytona, he ended the year with two home runs in the finale to bring his season total to 16 (12 with Peoria) in 80 games. That evidence of his plus bat speed, as well as his overall athleticism and competitiveness, puts him as baseball’s 23rd-best prospect and fourth-best shortstop in Jonathan Mayo’s end-of-season rankings at MLB.com.

To Baez’s right, third baseman Christian Villanueva was an important midseason addition via the Ryan Dempster deal with Texas. He’s considered to have very natural actions at third base, along with a strong arm and good hands. On the offensive side, he has plus bat speed and good pop, though he’s still refining his approach. Considering that third base is wide-open at the major league level, Villanueva could be one to watch.

Both Baez and Villanueva will be getting extra at-bats this fall—Baez in the Arizona Fall League and Villanueva in the Mexican Winter League (for Obregon). And both have considerable upside in how high they can climb.

Final Records:

First Half / 30-38, fifth place, 12.5 GB

Second Half / 29-36, sixth place, 7.5 GB

Storylines: Hope you had your stopwatches ready—new Manager Mark Johnson loved to send his runners around the bases. The Cubs’ 201 steals was 34 better than the No. 2 team in the league. Daytona also led the league in triples. Outfielder John Andreoli stole 55 bases in 75 tries to pace the team. Outfielder and top prospect Matt Szczur, promoted to Tennessee in July, had 38 steals in 50 attempts, while shortstop Arismendy Alcantara was 25-for-29. (more…)

Arizona Fall League rosters announced

The squads for the Arizona Fall Leagues were announced Wednesday afternoon, and seven Cubs farmhands will be a part of the the Mesa Solar Sox—the Cubs’ affiliate—when October rolls around.

Shortstop Javier Baez and outfielder Matt Szczur headline the group, as they were the No. 2 and 3 organizational prospects, respectively, according to Baseball America prior to the season. Baez, the club’s 2011 first-round pick, spent the majority of the year with Single-A Peoria, where he hit .333/.383/.596 with 12 homers in 57 games before an early August call-up to High-A Daytona. Szczur, a rangy outfielder with good speed, hit .268/.362/.396 with 58 walks and 42 stolen bases in 108 games between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

Versatile outfielder Rubi Silva—.299/.316/.410 with 68 RBI in 126 games at Daytona and Tennessee—rounds out the positional players headed for Arizona this fall.

The Cubs will also send four pitchers to the hitter-friendly league. Right-handers Dae-Eun Rhee and Tony Zych are two of the stronger young arms in the system. Rhee, the Cubs’ third-best arm according to Baseball America, finished 9-8 with a 4.95 ERA for Double-A Tennessee, while Zych was a combined 5-4 with a 3.43 ERA in relief for Daytona and Tennessee.

Right-hander Kevin Rhoderick posted a 2-7 record with a 4.87 ERA in relief for Tennessee, and lefty Zach Rosscup had a 2-1 record with a 3.26 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 30.1 innings at three different levels.

The Fall League starts Oct. 9 and runs through Nov. 15. The Solar Sox’s home games will be played at HoHoKam Stadium, the Cubs’ Spring Training home.

Cactus Notes: Second intrasquad game this afternoon

MESA, Ariz.–The Cubs are currently out on the practice fields preparing for the second straight day of intrasquad games before the Cactus League season kicks off tomorrow against the Oakland A’s. In yesterday’s matchup, the prospect-laden Blue team defeated the veteran White team 10-4, behind six RBIs from outfielder Matt Szczur. Today, both teams are highlighted by younger players and new acquisitions, including Jae-Hoon Ha, Welington Castillo, Dave Sappelt, Anthony Rizzo and Bobby Scales. Left-hander Chris Rusin will toe the mound for the Blue team, and righty Jay Jackson will start for the White team.

Below are today’s starting lineups:

White Team

1. Sappelt – CF

2. Cardenas – 3B

3. Rizzo – 1B

4. Clevenger – DH

5. Gibbs – C

6. Mota – SS

7. Szczur – LF

8. Scales – 2B

9. B. Jackson – RF

J. Jackson/McNutt – P

Blue Team

1. Campana – LF

2. Adduci – RF

3. Ha – CF

4. Mather – 1B

5. Castillo – C

6. Gonzalez – SS

7. Amezaga – 2B

8. Tolbert – 3B

9. Lalli – DH

Rusin/Cabrera – P

Cactus Notes: Prospects dominate first game

MESA, Ariz.–The first Cubs game of the season is in the books, and the youngest Cubs made a big early statement. The Blue team, led by top prospects Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo, took down the White team, which consisted of most of the projected Opening Day lineup, 10-4 in an intrasquad matchup at HoHoKam Park.

Top prospect Jackson got the Blue team off to a good start when he blasted a leadoff home run off starter Travis Wood.

“I just got a good pitch to hit,” said Jackson, who who went two-for-two with two walks. “It feels good to get underway and get that feel of playing innings instead of facing pitchers with the [cage] over you. It’s a good start all around. I think it was a productive day for everyone.”

Although many of the prospects impressed, Matt Szczur, a former football standout at Villanova University, was the real star of the game, hitting a grand slam, a two-run double and scoring from second on a sacrifice fly. Designated hitter Tony Campana also collected three hits and scored three runs in the game.

Wood, a left-hander who is in the mix for one of the final two rotation spots, struggled over three innings, giving up six runs on six hits, including two home runs. Randy Wells started for the Blue team and gave up three runs and four hits in three innings of work.

Farm Report: Hailing Szczur

Matt Szczur, pictured with the Short-Season Class-A Boise Hawks, has climbed a couple levels in just one year. Post by Austin Hannon. (Photo courtesy Boise Hawks)

Some players just find a way to separate themselves both on and off the field.

In May 2010, Matt Szczur (pronounced Cesar) donated stem cells to help save an 18-month-old girl that he had never met. One year later, he finds himself ranked as one of Baseball America’s midseason top 50 prospects.

On July 10, a day after being promoted to Class-A Advanced Daytona, the rising center fielder participated in the XM Futures Game, a display of each franchise’s elite prospects. ESPN’s Pedro Gomez performed an in-game dugout interview that touched upon Szczur’s decision to choose baseball over his gridiron skills he flashed at Villanova.

“To be honest, I thought I would miss it,” Szczur said, about his decision to leave football for baseball. “I realized in spring training, football wasn’t for me. I was excited I chose baseball.” (more…)

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