The pitching pipeline from Taiwan has exported three big names to the US: Wang, Kuo, and Tsao. The next wave of Taiwanese kids are trying to make a name for themselves in the minors. How did they fare in 2006? Let's take a look.
On the Rise
None at this time - Sounds a bit harsh, but Tsao, Kuo, and Wang set the bar high with their dominant performances in the minors.
1)Ching-Lung Lo: Signed as a 16 year old out of Taiwan, Lo is already a 5 year veteran in the US minors as a 21 year old! The last of the 7 figure bonus babies from Taiwan, Lo has failed to live up to high expectations. Throwing in the low 90's as a 16 year old, Lo only recently gained back some of that zip on his fastball with a change in his throwing mechanics. With that said, Lo's K/9 did improve this season (7.43) while moving up a rung in the minor leagues. Playing in High A ball, Lo did have one of his best seasons in the minor leagues, winning a career high 10 games, throwing a career high 155.1 innings, while striking out a career high 128. However, opponents hit .285 off Lo and his ERA for the season was 5.39!
Lo's cumulative stats for 2006:(Compare to Lo's previous seasons)
10Wins - 5Losses 5.39 ERA 155.1 IP 128 K's/54 BB
Lo's future outlook with the Rockies organization is unclear, but because he is still fairly young, it is too early to write him off at this time. Lo could get another look at Modesto or start next year in AA.
2)Chi-Hung Cheng: Statistically, Cheng had the best season of his young 3 year minor league career. The 21 year old won a career high 11 games, had a K/9 > 9, and even managed to lower his BB/9 to 4.28 (career average of 4.83). However, the Blue Jays organization felt fit to keep Cheng in A - ball (Lansing) for all of 2006, despite having fairly similar numbers in 2005 with Lansing. The biggest hinderance to Cheng's advancement in his career has been his control (or lack there of). Also, over the years, Cheng has lost velocity off of his fastball - from the low 90's as a teenager to the mid to upper 80's nowadays.
Cheng's cumulative stats for 2006:(Compare to Cheng's previous seasons)
11Wins - 5Losses 2.70 ERA 143.1 IP 154 K's/68 BB
The former Little League World Champ should get a shot at High A ball (Dunedin) next season.
3)Po-Hsuan Keng: Keng started the season with Cheng in Lansing. The 21 year old was utilized mainly as a reliever in 2006. Keng actually pitched well enough in Lansing - utilizing his 89 to 90 mph fastball, that he was promoted to high A - ball in Dunedin during the season. Unfortunately for Keng, his stay in Dunedin was short as he got shelled in his brief appearance with the club - 8.2 IP 10 ER 3 HR's allowed.
Keng's cumulative stats for 2006:(Compare to Keng's previous seasons)
1Win - 5Losses 3 Saves 3.22 ERA 78.1 IP 62 K's/21 BB
The Blue Jays appear content to move Cheng and Keng up the organization together, so Dunedin appears to be the destination of choice for Keng in 2007.
1)Ting-Jen Yeh: The 23 year old project made his debut in the US in 2006. However, he only made 9 appearances with Lowell (short season A ball) all season. With such little data, he retains his "project" status. We'll have to wait and see how he fares next season.
Yeh's cumulative stats for 2006:
1Win - 0Losses 9.53 ERA 11.1 IP 10 K's/7 BB
Because of his age and too much time spent away from the game, Yeh will probably play another year in Lowell.
2)Wang-Yi Lin: Another "project", Lin actually performed quite well in his US debut. The 18 year old held his own, pitching strictly as a reliever for the Spinners. Lin appeared in 10 games and hitters only hit .227 off him. However, again because of the limited amount of data on Lin, another season in the GCL is warranted before we pass judgement on Lin. Also Lin, a former positional player in HS is still learning how to pitch. In a matter of a year, Lin's fastball has improved from barely cracking 80 mph to the point that he is able to clock up to 88 mph on his fastball. Lin's future appears bright.
W.Y. Lin's cumulative stats for 2006:
2Wins - 1Loss 1 Save 1.31 ERA 20.2 IP 8 K's/6 BB
3)Yen-Feng Lin: The 21 year old made his pro debut in the GCL. Like W.Y. Lin, Y.F. Lin pitched mostly in a relief role and managed to go undefeated in his first pro campaign (3-0). However, like the two guys mentioned above, his limited appearances make it hard to project his future.
Y.F. Lin's cumulative stats for 2006:
3Wins - 0Losses 2 Saves 3.92 ERA 20.2 IP 17 K's/6 BB
Lin could start next year in the GCL or with Batavia (low A-ball).
1)Chia-An Huang: Can any player's stock fall any faster than the one time uber prospect? After numerous rumors surrounding the player's whereabouts and physical condition in the offseason, the bottom line is that Huang did finally end up in the US in 2006. Despite not playing this year, Huang reported to extended spring training in Peoria. An unspecified injury to Huang's shoulder led to a significant loss in mph off of Huang's once feared fastball. The last I heard, Huang was only throwing in the low 80's. Of all the pitchers listed above, Huang's signing bonus was second to only C.L. Lo. The return on the Mariner's investment in Huang is not looking good at this time. We'll have to see what transpires in the offseason and during spring training in 2007, before we can establish Huang as a prospect again.