- Full name Matthew Szczur
- Born 07/20/1989 in Cape May, NJ
- Profile Ht.: 6'0" / Wt.: 200 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Villanova
- Debut 08/17/2014
Drafted in the 5th round (160th overall) by the Chicago Cubs in 2010 (signed for $100,000).
View Draft ReportA wide receiver for Villanova's football team, Szczur led the Wildcats to a Football Championship Subdivision national title last fall, earning MVP honors in the championship game after racking up 270 all-purpose yards. He is a legitimate NFL draft prospect as a receiver in the Wes Welker mold, which clouds his baseball signability, but he also could be drafted as early as the fifth round in baseball. Szczur is an electrifying athlete with true 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. He is still learning to put his speed to use in the outfield--he arrived at Villanova as a catcher and has never concentrated on baseball full-time--and has played right field for the Wildcats, but he could become an adequate defender in center or left with work. His arm is well-below-average. Offensively, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Szczur has an unorthodox, slashy swing, but he has a knack for barreling up balls consistently, and he projects as an average hitter with below-average power. He has a patient approach, and he can use all fields and make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. Scouts love Szczur's intensity on the field, and coaches rave about his work ethic and ability to learn. He also has special makeup off the field; days after hitting for the cycle on April 27, Szczur donated bone marrow to a 1-year-old girl with leukemia, sidelining him for the next three weeks.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Szczur's athleticism wowed the Cubs when he played football at Villanova, and they paid him $100,000 to sign and then $1.4 million to choose baseball over a possible football career. He remains a top athlete and speedster, but he also remains the owner of a somewhat ugly swing that makes it hard for scouts to project him as a regular. Szczur's swing simply doesn't stay in the strike zone long enough for him to drive the ball with any consistency. He has plus raw power but struggles when every pitch isn't straight. Szczur draws walks and grinds through a season without giving up too many at-bats, but he just doesn't have the offensive impact needed from a regular. His speed remains plus but his baserunning instincts lag behind. He's a strong defender in center field, a leader for the other outfielders, and has improved his throwing arm, earning solid-average grades. His energy, work ethic and grinder mentality will make managers want to have him in their clubhouse as a useful fourth outfielder, his likely ceiling now. He's headed to Triple-A Iowa in 2014.
The Cubs bought Szczur out of a potential football career, signing him for a $100,000 bonus in 2010 with the provision he could play his final football season at Villanova. When that ended, Chicago paid him an additional $1.4 million to concentrate on baseball full-time. Szczur is the best athlete and fastest player in the system, but he has yet to maximize his physical gifts on the diamond. He's strong enough to hit for average power, but he cuts off his swing and rolls over on a lot of fastballs. He has become a more selective hitter and focuses on getting on base to take advantage of his plus-plus speed. He has improved his bunting and his basestealing instincts, becoming more aggressive about picking spots to run. He has made himself into a solid center fielder with an average, accurate arm. Some scouts think he still can blossom into a quality everyday player; others see him as a second-division regular. Both sides agree he has stellar makeup and brings energy to the park everyday. A knee injury sustained on a bad slide right before his Double-A promotion hindered him down the stretch, but he played in the Arizona Fall League and will take another shot at Double-A in 2013.
The MVP of the 2009 NCAA football championship subdivision title game, Szczur had NFL aspirations as a wide receiver. After signing him for $100,000 as a 2010 fifthround pick, the Cubs paid him an additional $1.4 million last March to give up the gridiron. He ranked as the low Class A Midwest League's best defensive outfielder, played in the Futures Game and hit .368 in the playoffs as high Class A Daytona won the Florida State League title. His deal necessitated a spot on the 40-man roster after the season. Szczur is polished for a two-sport player. His plus-plus speed helps him hit for average, makes him a basestealing threat and allows him to run down balls from gap to gap. He has a short, quick swing and strength in his hands and wrists that could translate into average power. Szczur's main needs are to get more patient at the plate and more aggressive on the basepaths. He has worked to improve his arm strength from below-average to solid. Coaches and scouts rave about his makeup as much as his tools. After wearing down from his baseball/football grind in the second half, Szczur could be primed for a breakout. He'll start 2012 at Double-A Tennessee and could reach Chicago in 2013. He should eventually push Brett Jackson to right field.
Szczur led Villanova to the 2009 NCAA football championship subdivision title, winning MVP honors in the final game with 270 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He made more headlines last May, when he took time out of his baseball season to donate peripheral blood cells to a 1-year-old girl fighting leukemia. After missing three weeks, Szczur homered in his first at-bat back. The Cubs fell in love with his hitting ability, athleticism and makeup and drafted him in the fifth round. He signed for $100,000 and began his pro career with a 21-game hitting streak. Szczur returned to Villanova for his senior football season. Though he missed time with a high ankle sprain, he accounted for five touchdowns in an FCS quarterfinal game before the Wildcats were eliminated in the next round. Szczur's athletic ability is exciting enough, but it's his hitting skills that could make him a special player. Chicago marvels at his knack for barreling balls, and combined with his top-of-the-scale speed he should hit for high averages. He hits 400-foot bombs in batting practice, and once he gets more coaching and learns to finish through the ball better, he could have average or better power. He's refining his basestealing and baserunning, but his speed alone makes him a threat. Villanova football coach Andy Talley says Szczur is his fastest player ever, ahead of star NFL running back Brian Westbrook. In his short time in pro ball, Szczur's center-field play and his throwing made significant strides. He'll have plus-plus range once he improves his jumps, and his arm strength rated as average after he loosened up some of his football tightness. His competitiveness and work ethic are impeccable. He has more upside than any position player in the system, but Szczur also projects as a mid-round NFL draft pick as a slot receiver and kick returner. The Cubs would hate to lose him. If he makes a written commitment to them before the NFL scouting combine in February, his baseball contract calls for an additional $500,000 payment.
Minor League Top Prospects
Szczur earned MVP honors in the 2009 NCAA football championship subdivision title game and projected as a mid-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft as a wide receiver. After he hit .347 in his pro debut last summer, the Cubs persuaded him to play baseball full-time with a $1.5 million deal in January. Szczur's best tool is his well-above-average speed, which helps him hit for average, create havoc on the bases and run down everything in center field. He has strong hands and wrists and a knack for barreling the ball, so he could have average power as he learns to get more extension through the ball. His arm has improved considerably since he signed and now rates as solid to plus. "I love that guy," Menchaca said. "I'll take him any day. He's a tremendous athlete and I also like the way he went about his business. He's just a grinder who doesn't give at-bats away and runs everything out."
A potential mid-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft as a wide receiver, Szczur gave up football when the Cubs gave him a $1.5 million deal in January. Multisport athletes usually need time to develop when they settle on baseball, but he reached high Class A in his first full pro season. After playing football and baseball nearly nonstop for two years, he wore down after reaching Daytona but his upside remained apparent. Szczur has a compact swing and good bat speed. He's strong for his size and has sneaky power, with most of his five FSL homers coming on line drives. He has well above-average speed, and Bailey called him one of the fastest righthanded batters he's seen. Szczur is still learning now to steal bases but his speed already gives him plenty of range in center field. His breaks and routes on flyballs improved, and he earned constant praise for his hustle and work ethic. He has a solid arm.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Pacific Coast League in 2014
- Rated Best Athlete in the Chicago Cubs in 2013
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Chicago Cubs in 2013
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Florida State League in 2012
- Rated Best Athlete in the Chicago Cubs in 2012
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Chicago Cubs in 2012
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Midwest League in 2011
- Rated Best Athlete in the Chicago Cubs in 2011
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Chicago Cubs in 2011
Background: The MVP of the 2009 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game, Szczur had NFL aspirations as a wide receiver. After initially signing him for $100,000 as a 2010 fifth-round pick, the Cubs paid him an additional $1.4 million last March to give up the gridiron. He ranked as the low Class A Midwest League's best defensive outfielder, played in the Futures Game and hit .368 in the playoffs as high Class A Daytona won the Florida State League title. Scouting Report: Szczur is polished for a two-sport player. His plus-plus speed helps him hit for average, makes him a basestealing threat and allows him to run down balls from gap to gap. He has a short, quick swing and strength in his hands and wrists that could translate into average power once he gets more extension through the ball. Szczur's main needs are to get more patient at the plate and more aggressive on the basepaths. He has worked diligently to improve his arm strength from below average to solid. Coaches and scouts rave about his makeup as much as his tools. The Future: After wearing down from his nonstop baseball/football grind in the second half, Szczur could be primed for a breakout. He'll start 2012 at Double-A Tennessee and could reach Chicago in 2013. He'll eventually push Brett Jackson to right field.