Pittsburgh Pirates: Minor Leaguers Who Could Get Promoted Next

Which Pirate prospects could be promoted to the next level soon?
Feb 22, 2023; Bradenton, FL, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Matt Gorski (76) poses for photos
Feb 22, 2023; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Matt Gorski (76) poses for photos / Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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Tsung-Che Cheng

There’s no player more deserving of a promotion to the next level of the minors than Tsung-Che Cheng. Cheng produced quality results in both 2021 and 2022. While Cheng had above-average expectations going into the 2023 season, he’s blown all expectations out of the water and then some.

Cheng is batting .314/.411/.589 through 246 plate appearances. Cheng has always been able to reach base at a high rate, and 2023 has been no different. But a .411 OBP is a 35-point uptick from 2022. His 17.5% strikeout rate, and 13.8% walk rate are both strong (especially his walk rate). He has a .444 wOBA and 169 wRC+ on the season. But the real interesting part of Cheng’s season has been his power.

Cheng isn’t known to be a power hitter. He only had a .148 isolated slugging percentage last season but now sits at .275. Cheng has nine home runs, three more than in 2022, and in 212 fewer plate appearances. He also has a dozen doubles and a shocking nine triples. Cheng currently leads all minor league players in triples.

Speed is a major part of Cheng’s game, and he’s swiped 13 bags so far this year. He’s been ultra-aggressive on the base paths this year, attempting 22 total stolen bases. He’s gotten caught a decent amount of times this year, which is abnormal considering his 84.6% success rate last season.

But keep in mind that Cheng is playing in a hitter-friendly environment. The league average slugging percentage in the South Atlantic League is .381, while the league average slugging percentage in the Florida State League in 2022 was .361, twenty points lower. Plus, Greensboro is known as an extremely hitter-friendly park, which has also helped him out.

But Cheng is hitting far fewer ground balls, is still keeping his strikeouts under wraps, and is walking at an elite rate. Sure, he might not continue to have an isolated slugging percentage over .275, but he gets on base, racks up hits, and gets himself into scoring position. He could end up being a better Ji Hwan Bae.