Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: All Underrated 2023 Lineup

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Shortstop - Tsung-Che Cheng

The Pirates signed infielder Tsung-Che Cheng in 2019 as one of their international signees. After a strong debut at the Pirates' Florida Complex League in 2021, Cheng brought his talents over to A-Ball Bradenton where he played his first full season of pro ball. While he didn't reproduce the numbers he had at the FCL, he certainly did exceptionally well.

In 458 plate appearances, Cheng batted .270/.376/.418 with a .372 wOBA and 129 wRC+. Cheng had a solid 20.7% strikeout rate and a fantastic 13.8% walk rate. Cheng is known for his ability to run, receiving a 60-speed grade by FanGraphs, and swiping 33 bags in 39 attempts. But Cheng also got off to a slow start before hitting his stride in mid-May.

From May 15th onward, he batted .287/.405/.444. Cheng cut his K% down just below 20% at 19.6% but saw his walk rate go up to 15.3%. With an OBP over .400 and a semi-respectable .157 ISO, Cheng amounted to a 145 wRC+ hitter during this stretch with a wOBA of nearly .400 (.397).

Cheng has played both middle infield positions, as well as third base. He's generally considered a solid defender up the middle, and his speed gives him the range to cover both shortstop and second base. He also has a strong enough arm that he can play on the left side of the infield regularly.

Cheng is still young, but at just 5'7", how much power he can add is questionable at best. But depending on if he can properly develop and adapt to his way of hitting, he could be a sneakily good player to watch. With his speed, if he hits for a respectable average and puts up a decent walk rate, he'll be a perfect leadoff hitter. But being ranked as just the Pirates' 62nd-best prospect on FanGraphs list at the end of the 2022 season and unranked by MLB Pipeline makes him reasonably underrated in my book.

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