Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Chance for Po-Yu Chen to Breakout

Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Po-Yu Chen has a good chance to breakout in the second half of the 2022 campaign.

Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Po-Yu Chen put himself on prospect maps after tossing 26 straight innings without allowing a single walk. While his walkless streak came to an end last season with Bradenton, Chen has started the year out at Low-A again, but with some mixed numbers.

Acquired during the 2020 international deadline and in-part because of the Jarrod Dyson trade,  Chen has a 4.84 ERA in 67.1 innings. Not the best ERA for a kid that many are high on. It’s not like he’s getting super unlucky on batted balls, either. He has a .309 batting average on balls in play, which is pretty much league average. But Chen has a lot more going for him than what the surface numbers say.

Chen has struck out 26% of batters faced. His 9.4% walk rate might not look great on the surface, but the average league rate is 10.2%. The automatic ball-strike system used at the Low-A level has increased walk rates throughout the league. Chen has also been great at limiting home runs, allowing just four for a 0.57 HR/9 rate. Between his three-true-outcome rates, Chen has a 3.42 FIP this season.

Chen’s ERA has improved, though. Throughout his last seven outings, the right-hander has a 3.74 ERA. Meanwhile, his FIP has remained relatively the same, having a 3.52 mark. Chen’s xFIP also represents a solid pitcher, coming in at 3.82. Even better is his 3.39 FIP over the course of his last ten starts.

Chen is still pretty young for his level. He is only 20 years old, and the average age of pitchers at Low-Al is 22. Chen isn’t a hard thrower, only averaging out in the low-90s, but if he adds some muscle and bulk to his 6’2”, 187 pound frame, he might end up adding a tick or two of velocity. His splitter is a plus offering, and his curveball also looks decent. Chen’s biggest strength is command, which projects as a 60-grade tool.

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The Taiwanese right-hander is, to me, one of the most underrated arms in the Pirates’ system. He isn’t flashy, but he’s a quality arm that could slot into the rotation within the next 2-3 years. Chen’s so-so surface numbers have made him fly under the radar this year. However, there’s a good chance he has a second-half breakout, based on his recent numbers and his overall season estimators.