The Indians have signed shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, one of the top Asian amateur players on the market, for $500,000 out of Taiwan.
Chang, an 18-year-old out of Taichung Agricultural High, is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and is a good athlete who has played all over the field. He has a compact stroke and solid swing mechanics from the right side of the plate. Scouts have said he’s strong, but with his flat bat path he’s geared more toward line drives than generating loft, so he projects to be more of a doubles hitter than a home run threat.
While Chang is athletic and has stood out for his hitting, he doesn’t have a plus tool right now, which leaves some scouts with questions about where he profiles. Several scouts said they believe Chang will end up moving off shortstop. He’s a 55 runner on the 20-80 scale and he has a good running gait, so some scouts think he has a chance to play center field with an average arm. Others think his body type will lead him to slow down, making him a better defensive fit at either third base, second base or a corner outfield spot.
At the 16U World Championship in Mexico in 2011, Chang played center field and made the all-tournament team along with Team USA’s Austin Meadows (the No. 6 prospect in Thursday’s draft), competing against players like Franklin Barreto, the No. 1 international prospect for July 2 last year who signed with the Blue Jays for $1.45 million, and Brazil’s Luiz Gohara, who signed with Seattle for $880,000. Chang led his team in batting average and slugging at the tournament, where he hit .414/.469/.690 by going 12-for-29 with three doubles, a triple, a home run, two walks and one strikeout.
Chang is the younger brother of Pirates catcher Jin-De Jhang, a 20-year-old who signed for $250,000 two years ago and entered the year as Pittsburgh’s No. 27 prospect after hitting .305/.382/.398 in 43 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2012.
The Indians have been one of the most active teams in signing players from Taiwan in recent years. Righthanded reliever Chen Lee, the organization’s No. 10 prospect entering the season, signed in 2008 and has reached Triple-A. Chun Chen, who signed as a catcher in 2007 and is now a 24-year-old first baseman in Triple-A Columbus, was another Cleveland signing from Taiwan. In 2011, the Indians paid $250,000 for righthander Shao-Ching Chiang. Last year the Indians signed righthander Ping-Hsueh Chen for $60,000 and catcher Li-Jen Chu for $40,000.