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Chang has big upside for Indians at the left side of the infield

Chang has big upside for Indians at the left side of the infield
Yu-Cheng Chang (Photo: IBI)
November 20, 2014
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Rookie ball can be a tough level to evaluate, especially in Arizona.

There are so many promising, young players for any organization at any given time at that level because so many players have youth and upside on their side; however, very few of those players realize their potential. Many quickly fall off the radar and don’t get out of rookie ball or even Single-A, while some others will make it into the upper levels of the minors before seeing their prospect momentum stall.

Only a very select few top prospects in rookie ball really make it to the Major Leagues and become very good players. One of those players the Indians are hopeful lives up to that potential and survives the minor league minefield is shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang.

Chang, who just turned 19 in August, had a big season for rookie level Arizona this past season. After signing as an international free agent last December out of Taitung, Taiwan he had an exceptional pro debut hitting .346 with 6 homers, 25 RBI, 6 stolen bases and .986 OPS in 42 games in Arizona.

Overall, it was a season Chang was very proud of and he is happy to be with the Indians.

“It was a pretty good experience,” Chang said through a translator.  “At the beginning in spring training and the first half of the season [in extended spring training] I wasn’t very confident and was not competing as well as I expect to. But gradually as the season went on I started to feel better and better and had a strong season.”

Strong indeed. If not for the presence of the Indians very own Bobby Bradley and his monster year, Chang would have been the league MVP.

When you compare Chang’s season to his peers in Arizona, you get an idea just how good his season was. He finished 3rd in the Arizona League in hitting (.346), 4th in on-base percentage (.420), 2nd in slugging percentage (.566), 2nd in OPS (.986), tied for 1st in runs (39), 4th in hits (55), tied for 8th in triples (4), tied for 2nd in home runs (6) and 3rd in total bases (90). He also cranked two homers in two playoff games (4-for-9, 2 HR, 3 RBI).

Hitting is no doubt the strongest part of Chang’s game and something he really enjoys.

“I love hitting and I like my power,” Chang said.

That potential and the strong bat is something that the Indians themselves are very aware of and are excited to see what Chang becomes as he matures and develops as a player. Indians special advisor Johnny Goryl had nothing but praise for him when asked about Chang earlier this year.

“You watch him play and you say ‘Man, he is pretty special,’” Goryl said.  “You can look at him and wonder what he is going to be in four to five years. He is going to be a pretty special kid.”

Chang has a solid glove with a strong arm and really does a nice job of slowing the game down. Right now he is just focused on becoming a more consistent defender and being a little quicker reading the ball off the bat.

“I have been working hard on my fielding,” Chang said.  “My agility with my lateral movements is a place I feel I can get better.”

While the bat is promising, the Indians need to figure out where he fits on the field. He is being developed as a shortstop but also played some third base this season. He could also end up as a corner outfielder someday. He is getting bigger and stronger every day, so it really depends on how his body matures and changes the next few years and whether his 6-foot-1 175-pound frame becomes too big for shortstop and pushes him to a corner position.

Chang actually prefers to play third base because he feels more comfortable there, but also likes shortstop because he is more involved in the game.

“I like either position,” Chang said.  “To be honest, I feel more comfortable at third base because it is easier for me; however, I enjoy and love to play shortstop because at that positon I am learning more about everything on the field. I am more involved in all the action.”

Chang finished his senior year in high school when he signed with the Indians last year. He was a high profile player in the Asian market and played at the 16U World Championship in Mexico in 2011 where he shined on the field being named to the all-tournament team after hitting .414 (12-for-29) with a 1 HR, 2 walks, 1 strikeout and 1.159 OPS.  He has some pedigree as his brother Jin-De Jhang was signed by the Pirates two years ago and is progressing up through the system with them.

Since signing Chang has been back and forth between Arizona and Taiwan a few times, but he spent a majority of the season stateside and had to make his way on his own. Most players can be intimidated by an environment where they don’t speak the language or understand the culture, but Chang jumped right in with both feet and has enjoyed the adjustment living and making his way on his own in the United States.

“It really has not been too difficult of an adjustment,” Chang said. “The only thing that is a little tough is the language. I am trying to learn it, to speak it and to listen to it. I took English classes during the season. Everything else - no matter if is it food or whatever - I feel it is easy to enjoy my life here.”

Chang’s banner pro debut is now behind him. It was a nice opening act for what many hope ends with him having a very long, prosperous career as a good player in the big leagues. He has since gone back home to Taiwan to be with his family, but his focus is still on getting better and preparing himself to have another good season next year.

“I want to make my body stronger and work even harder on my glove work and agility so I can perform better on the field as an infielder,” Chang said.

Chang has the right mindset and lots of talent. Now it is time to see how he does in the next chapter of his career. That next stop should be at Low-A Lake County next season.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Hiram
November 22, 2014 - 5:58 PM EST
Tony,

Glad you're not a GM. I would fire you if you even considered such a deal or brought it to me as an Owner
Tony
November 22, 2014 - 2:04 PM EST
Beltre has a vesting option for 2016 which is easy to pickup. He'd be a two-year solution and a top guy at the position. These are the kind of deals prospects are for. I do the deal every day and twice on Sunday.
Hiram
November 22, 2014 - 1:41 PM EST
Tony,

Beltre is 36, a free agent and the Indians have a long term answer at the position who will be ready. Saying Frazier might not make to the Majors goes without saying because you can say that about any "prospect". His upside is far too great for such a short team solution. I understand going for it but you need to have more a long term player than what Beltre would give you. Indians do have depth but don't give it away for a year rental.
Tony
November 22, 2014 - 10:52 AM EST
I don't follow Hiram. Frazier more than likely will never make it to the majors. The wash out rate on prospects, especially those in the lower levels is rather high. It's not like I am giving him away.....I'd love to keep him but would trade ANY prospect not named Lindor in a deal that brought back Beltre. I'd even consider dealing two of ANY prospect not named Lindor for Beltre. Beltre fits everything the Indians need.....great defense, a middle of the order right-handed bat, good plate discipline, and leadership. If he were a free agent I'd be balls to the wall pushing for the Indians to sign him. Perfect fit.
Hiram
November 22, 2014 - 9:23 AM EST
Tony,

something is wrong with you
Tony
November 21, 2014 - 4:11 PM EST
Absolutely. If the Indians could indeed trade Frazier for Beltre, I'd do it in a nanosecond. He'd be a tremendous upgrade to the team both in the lineup and on the field and for more than one year. But it's not happening. He's not available and Frazier alone doesn't get it done.
Matthew
November 21, 2014 - 4:06 PM EST
I would absolutely still make that deal.
Hiram
November 21, 2014 - 3:57 PM EST
I still can't get over the fact that Tony wanted to trade Clint Frazier for Adiran Beltre... Jeff Ellis did too for that matter, LMAO
Hiram
November 21, 2014 - 1:31 PM EST
Joseph,

I agree with you that we do need that hitter and it's time. Who do you want and what are you willing to give are the questions though ??
Joseph`
November 21, 2014 - 5:25 AM EST
All this talk about adding Urshela or any of their minor leaguers is just distraction from the important issue facing this team...that is...WE NEED A MIDDLE OF THE ORDER HITTER. Anything else is just idle non significant chatter. We need to stop wasting good pitching and bring in a power bat. It is well past the time for Antonetti to step up and get a hitter or put us fans out of our misery and get out of town.
Clay
November 20, 2014 - 7:59 PM EST
Have no real issues of the 40 man additions. Probably just Soto the only one I question a little bit. They have their reasons either way.

Probably would have moved on from Barnes by now.

Barnes & Maronde are easily DFA'd if and when the Indians sign a FA.
Homer
November 20, 2014 - 4:16 PM EST
I get adding Merritt if they felt he was likely selected as a LOOGY. Anderson too, bc he is a power arm.

I don't get why they've handled Barnes like they have...he doesn't seem to have a chance to make the club, why keep him around? Then there's Maronde who has struggled and Price who has gotten little time / exposure to the bigs.

I would have liked to see them add Soto, simply to provide LHRP depth. Maronde seems to be a depth SP and possibly LH pen arm, but it's hardly a foregone conclusion that he would be selected off waivers. I think they could/should trade Barnes and Price for cash or in a larger trade.
Tondo
November 20, 2014 - 3:09 PM EST
I have Chang at 7 in the same "tier" with Bradley and Mejia.

Indians left Soto, Sturdevant, Colon and Roberts unprotected. Soto is a mistake. Keeping Barnes and Merritt who never pitched above A+ over him makes little sense to me. Even Cody Anderson. I mean, who is going to claim a guy that was terrible in AA?
Ryan
November 20, 2014 - 2:39 PM EST
@Rocky55 only conclusion is that it is probably passive racism. Pure and simple, true asian prospects, not the ML ready ones from the asian pro leagues, are for some reason not looked on as highly as those from Latin America or the US.

Tony
November 20, 2014 - 2:31 PM EST
I don't know what other people/sites think about Chang, but I am certainly high on him. Maybe the best position player "prospect" on that Arizona team, arguably more than Bradley because he plays in the middle of the field and has some power. He's definitely right around the Top 10 for me....but haven't finalized yet. I think if he continues to progress well that he could be a possibility in Cleveland by 2018 or late 2017.
Walter
November 20, 2014 - 1:40 PM EST
If Chang progresses similar to Lindor through the minor league system, should he reach the majors by 2018? Indians 3B in 2018 or 19 ?

I hope he continues to develop his power stroke. Big year for him at Lake County to start the process of climbing the minor league ladder.
Rocky55
November 20, 2014 - 1:40 PM EST
Funny thing is that despite the universal (deserved) praise for Bradley, Chang isn't mentionetootop prospect discussions. I'm thinking 3B in the future.

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