Former highly touted international free agent pitcher Po-Yu Chen will be looking to take a step forward in the Pirate farm system in 2023
On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a splash to start the international free agent period. The team made notable free agent signings, headlined by Korean pitcher Jun-Seok Shim. The 18-year-old was one of the 10 best players available.
International free agency can be a great way for MLB teams to add young talent to their organization. Especially small market teams that struggle to compete in MLB free agency. One of the best prospects already in the Pirate farm system that they added via international free agency is right-handed pitcher Po-Yu Chen. Looking ahead to 2023, Chen could be in line for a big season.
The Taiwan native spent the entire 2022 season pitching for Low-A Bradenton. This was Chen's first full professional season. Even though his overall numbers may not have looked great, he certainly had positives and took steps forward.
After making four starts for Bradenton in 2021, Chen made 22 starts for the Marauders last season. Chen pitched 98.1 innings in his 22 starts, posting a 4.58 ERA and a 3.76 FIP. He walked 8.6% of batters faced, had a strong 24.5% strikeout rate, and limited home runs to a 0.73 HR/9.
Making 22 starts at the Low-A level at just the age of 20 is a positive in itself. What was even more encouraging is how Chen finished the 2022 campaign. Over his final 10 starts of the season Chen pitched 45.2 innings, posting a 3.74 ERA. While his strikeout rate of 22.1% was lower than his overall strikeout rate for the season, the same can be said about his 7.4% walk rate.
Chen throws a fastball, curveball, splitter trio. Currently, FanGraphs gives his fastball a future value (FV) of just 30, but rates his curveball (45 FV) and splitter (55 FV) much higer than his fastball. His curveball and splitter are his two bread and butter pitches.
Looking ahead to 2023, Chen is a pitcher to watch in the farm system. Entering his age-21 season he could be in line for a breakout campaign. Especially if he can pick up where he left off at in his final 10 starts last season.
Chen could potentially start the season back at Low-A Bradenton, however, it seems like a safer bet that he will be at High-A Greensboro. The increase in competition will be a good test for Chen and could prove to be a good proving ground for him.
Reaching Double-A Altoona by the end of the season is not out of the question for Chen, especially if he does start the season at High-A Greensboro. Regardless of how things shake out, Chen will be a prospect to watch in 2023.