Recapping the 2023 season of Pittsburgh Pirates infield prospect Tsung-Che Cheng, a season that led to him being put on the 40-man roster
Earlier this week the Pittsburgh Pirates added infield prospect Tsung-Che Cheng to their 40-man roster. The Pirates did this in order to protect Cheng from next month's Rule 5 Draft. This came on the heels of a season that saw Cheng post a .808 OPS across two separate minor league levels.
The left-handed hitting Cheng started his season with the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers. At the time, he was just 21-years-old. With the Grasshoppers, Cheng did nothing but hit and get on base at a high clip.
Cheng had 254 plate appearances in 57 games played at Greensboro. In those 254 PAs, Cheng hit for a .308/.406/.575 slash line with a 163 wRC+. Cheng hit 9 home runs, with 30 extra base hits, a .266 isolated slugging (ISO), and 13 stolen bases with hte Grasshoppers.
This led to Cheng earning a promotion to Double-A Altoona. With the Curve, Cheng's numbers dipped to a .251/.304/.352 slash line with a wRC+ of 80. He once again stole 13 bases, while collecting 16 extra base hits to go with an ISO of .101.
When he was promoted to Altoona, Cheng's strikeout rate essentially stayed the same going from 18.5% to 18.9%. His walk rate, however, was more than cut in half dropping from 13.8% with Greensboro to just 6.0% with Altoona.
Cheng saw his line-drive rate suffer a significant drop with the Curve as well. After hitting line drives at 23.8% rate with Greensboro, that number dropped to 13.6% with Altoona. He also pulled the ball less with his pull rate dropping from 43.3% to 38.5%. Both of these likely contributed to his drop in power after being promoted to Altoona. It does not help that People's Natural Gas Field in Altoona is not a good hitter's park at all.
His results at Double-A were also somewhat skewed by a disastrous start with the Curve. Cheng had just two hits in his first 28 PAs with the Curve. Across the final three months of the season he was much better, hitting for a .270/.322/.383 slash line with a 94 wRC+ in 253 PAs. Still not as strong as his results at Greensboro, but certainly a strong bounceback from his woeful start with the Curve.
Looking ahead to 2024, Cheng should start the season back with Altoona. If he is able to rediscover the hitting habits he had at High-A, he could be on the fast track to Triple-A Indianapolis. A 2024 MLB debut for the 22-year-old can not be ruled out.