Pittsburgh Pirates: Rum Bunter's Top 10 Prospects

A Look at our top ten Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects
Jul 18, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (left) is
Jul 18, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (left) is / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Number Seven - Infielder Tsung-Che Cheng

Tsung-Che Cheng is one of the many top middle infield prospects in the Pirate system. Cheng was signed back in July of 2019. So far, he’s performed well in every year of his minor league career. 2023 has had some down moments, but has mostly been another successful season for the speedy infielder.

Cheng is slashing .294/.368/.478 with a .378 wOBA, and 129 wRC+. Cheng has always been an on-base threat, and he’s walked 10.1% of the time this year to pair with an 18.5% strikeout rate. While he’s never been a power threat, Cheng has hit for a surprising amount of pop. He has 11 home runs through 466 plate appearances and a .184 isolated slugging percentage.

After a red hot start at Greensboro, Cheng was promoted to Double-A. The first month was rough, as he owned just a 42 wRC+ from June 24th through July 27th. However, since then, Cheng has turned things around in a big way. Since July 28th, he is hitting for an outstanding 131 wRC+, as well as an OPS well above .800 (.853), and .378 wOBA. 

Cheng projects in a similar manner to Pirate infielder/outfielder Ji-Hwan Bae. He is a fast middle infielder whose hit tool is his best offensive weapon. Cheng has swiped 24 bases this year but has been unsuccessful a worrying amount of times. He’s gotten caught stealing 12 times. While he has speed, he hasn’t made great decisions on the basepaths. Cheng is also a solid defensive second baseman/shortstop.

The one area that Cheng struggles with is power. He is listed at 5’7”, and around 173 pounds. Cheng’s best bet is to become a line-drive centric hitter. He also needs to keep his walk rate up so he can use his speed to get on base and put himself in a position to score. But I believe he has the talent to do that.

Cheng is only 22, and should start the 2024 season at Triple-A. The Pirate middle infield picture is quite crowded right now, but you can never have enough depth. The Pirates could attempt to give him the Bae treatment and try him out in the outfield. Cheng would be more than fast enough to cover center field. Regardless of his position, Cheng has the potential to be a leadoff hitter for a future Pirates team.