Cubs Midseason Report
Former Villanova football star Matt Szczur
has done nothing to make the Cubs regret giving him a $1.5 million bonus to forego the NFL draft, where he had been highly anticipated as a return man and Reggie Bush-style offensive force. Szczur, 22, is delivering in his first full season as a baseball player. He was hitting .318/.372/.441 with five home runs and 17 stolen bases at low Class A Peoria.
Given that he was signed with an eye on filling the void for a homegrown leadoff man, his most impressive stat might be 54 runs in 63 games. He's a strong defensive center fielder, turning in errorless work in the first half of the season, and has enough arm to make right field a long-term possibility. His intangibles are off the chart, not that the Cubs aren't happy with the totals that can be measured.
Biggest Leap Forward:
An undersized prospect from Cincinnati, center fielder Tony Campana
hit and ran his way to the top rung of the Cubs system, then got an unexpected opportunity to play center field when Marlon Byrd was injured. He was immediately ranked as one of the fastest runners in the majors and held his own at the plate, batting .274/.312/.301 in 73 at-bats. He had started the season hitting .342 in 30 games with Triple-A Iowa. His bat will determine if he's ever more than an extra outfielder and pinch-runner. The one downside to his big league stay was that he didn't use his small strike zone to work walks, with just four in 38 games.
After a strong spring training in which general manager Jim Hendry mentioned righthanders Alberto Cabrera
and Trey McNutt as guys who could help in the big leagues this season, the 22-year-old Cabrera lost both velocity and sharpness on his breaking pitches. Cabrera got hammered first with Double-A Tennessee and then with Triple-A Iowa. He had a 6.50 ERA through 89 innings, and at Iowa was allowing more than two baserunners per inning.
• Lefthanded-hitting Steve Clevenger has joined Welington Castillo in giving the Cubs two catchers under consideration for a big league promotion. Clevenger had combined to hit .332 with seven homers in 62 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
• D.J. LeMahieu, a second-round pick in 2009 from LSU, was hitting .358/.386/.492 at Double-A when he was summoned to Chicago as a fill-in for the sidelined Darwin Barney. The Cubs aren't sure if he projects more as a second baseman or third baseman but manager Mike Quade sees him as "somebody you can count on."