Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects in the Low Minors With A Lot to Gain This Season
By Noah Wright
Tsung-Che Cheng is one of two Taiwanese prospects that will get some attention today. Cheng is a high-contact/low-power kind of prospect. Despite that kind of skillset, Cheng put up a semi-respectable ISO last season. On top of that, he consistently has a low strikeout rate and high walk rate. Now at Greensboro, Cheng has gotten off to a great start.
Last season, Cheng was a .270/.376/.418 batter with a .372 wOBA, and 129 wRC+. He had a strong 20.7% strikeout rate and 13.8% walk rate, but he was one of the Pirates’ best minor league hitters from about mid-may through the end of the season. Cheng slashed .287/.405/.444 with a .397 wOBA, and 145 wRC+. Cheng walked even more often with a 15.3% walk rate and cut his K% down to just 19.7%. During that time, he had a .157 ISO, which isn’t too shabby.
So far, Cheng has nine hits in 34 plate appearances with the Grasshoppers. Of those nine hits, three are triples, and two more are home runs. Greensboro is a hitters’ paradise, but he’s maintained a 4:6 BB:K ratio. His ability to draw walks and get on base at such a high rate makes his speed a weapon for opponents to be wary of.
Now sure, his power output so far has been nothing short of phenomenal, but it’s in a small sample size at a hitter-friendly venue. He only projects to have about 40-grade raw power, and his game power outlook isn’t going to change much until he adds more strength. But that doesn’t mean that Cheng isn’t going to ever be a worthwhile prospect.
Ji Hwan Bae is considered one of the Pirates’ better prospects. When the Bucs acquired Tucupita Marcano, he was ranked top ten in the San Diego Padre system. Both have very similar skillsets to Cheng. If he keeps performing like he has throughout the minor leagues, prospect lists aren’t going to have any other choice but to move him up the ladder. He’s only 21 and won’t turn 22 until late July.