Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects
By Tracy Ringolsby
1. Chin-Hui Tsao, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Signed: Taiwan, 1999. Signed by: Tim Ireland.
Background: Tsao was the Rockies first significant international signing, receiving what was then a franchise-record $2.2 million signing bonus in October 1999. He had just gone 3-0 with 23 shutout innings for Taiwan in the World Junior Championship, then pitched a one-hitter with 15 strikeouts against China as the lone amateur in the Asia Cup. After making a stunning debut in 2000, he showed up for spring training last year unable to pitch because he hadnt throw during the offseason. After just four starts at high Class A Salem, Tsao was shut down with torn ligaments in his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. With the strong comebacks made by others who have undergone the operation in recent yearsincluding the Cardinals Matt Morris, who tied for the National League lead with 22 victories in 2001Colorado is confident Tsao will regain his previous form.
Strengths: Tsao has the makings of a dominant power pitcher. He has a legitimate mid-90s fastball and an excellent slider he can throw anytime in the count. He has a good feel for pitching, particularly at such a young age. Tsao also has shown an ability to throw strikes and is a quick study.
Weaknesses: Obviously, missing the bulk of last season and not being expected to be ready at the start of 2001 will rob Tsao of what he needs most: experience. He was so dominant in his native Taiwan that he is still learning about the demands of success in the big leagues. The work required to come back from Tommy John surgery should give him an idea of the effort involved. Theres a strong feeling that his lack of an offseason throwing program set the stage for his elbow problem. Tsao has such a good slider that at times hell forget to use his fastball. He did begin throwing a two-seam fastball early last year to give hitters a different look.
The Future: Tsaos rehab work had him ahead of schedule in his return from surgery, yet he still isnt expected to be ready to pitch until late May at the earliest. A potential No. 1 starter, Tsao figures to return to Salem when hes ready. As soon as he shows hes healthy, hell return to the fast track to Coors Field.
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