- Full name Chin-lung Hu
- Born 02/02/1984 in Tainan City, Taiwan
- Profile Ht.: 5'11" / Wt.: 190 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Nan-Ying Vocational
- Debut 09/01/2007
Organization Prospect Rankings
While high-profile Pacific Rim signees Chin-Feng Chen and Hong-Chi Kuo didn't pan out for Los Angeles, Hu has persevered and developed into a valuable prospect. After a poor offensive season in 2006, he came to camp 10 pounds heavier and produced the best numbers of his career. He was the MVP of the Futures Game, the Dodgers' minor league hitter of the year and a September callup. A line-drive hitter with good barrel awareness, Hu cleaned up mechanical flaws in his swing and improved his plate coverage and ability to make hard contact. He has a tendency to step in the bucket with his front foot, but when he remains closed he hits the top half of the ball consistently and uses all fields. He likes fastballs early in counts, but shows good pitch recognition and plate discipline. His well-above-average defensive package--with the arm strength, footwork and hands of a Gold Glover--always will be his best asset. He has slightly above-average speed and runs the bases well. He's a hard worker with strong makeup. Hu had a career .397 slugging percentage entering 2007, and even with the improvements, his power grades as below-average. Avoiding bad habits with his swing will be vital to his ability to produce against more advanced pitchers. Rafael Furcal is entering the final year of his contract, so Hu will compete with Tony Abreu for a utility-infield job in spring training. Hu could spend most of the season in Triple-A and will be poised to take over in 2009 if he can replicate his offensive success.
The Dodgers have a history of success scouting the Pacific Rim and locked in on Hu as a teenager. Hu went 5-for-12 for Taiwan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and was assigned to Double-A after two strong seasons in Class A. Hu's value lies in his glove, and he struggled to make consistent hard contact in 2006. He has a high front-leg kick to trigger his swing and tends to drift away from the plate. Fastballs in on his hands give him trouble, as he's geared to spray line drives up the middle and to the opposite field. He hits the top half of the ball well and has good pitch recognition. His 49 walks were almost twice as many as he had drawn in any previous season, and he made strides in his ability to command the strike zone. He has below-average power, though he can drive balls to both alleys when he gets his arms extended. He's a slightly above-average runner and has outstanding range and instincts at shortstop. He led Southern League shortstops with a .981 fielding percentage. Balls disappear in his glove and his hands are supple. He has a solid-average arm and makes clean, quick exchanges. He's quicker to his left than he is making plays to his backhand. Hu could develop into an everyday shortstop in the big leagues on a club that can supplement his lack of offense. He could repeat Double-A in 2007.
One scout described Vero Beach's double-play combo of Hu and Etanislau Abreu as "the traveling circus show" because of their penchant for defensive highlights. Hu finished second to Abreu in the Florida State League batting race, then hit .343 for Taiwan at the World Cup tournament following the season. While Abreu is a plus defender, Hu is off the charts. He's slightly undersized but wiry strong with outstanding body control and has pure shortstop actions. His range is extraordinary, as are his hands, and his arm and speed are both above average. Hu made an adjustment at the plate, curtailing his leg kick, which improved his balance and prevented him from flying open during his swing. He has surprising pop, uses the whole field and has a feel for the strike zone. Hu has a tendency to bail on good breaking balls and he needs to become more selective. His small frame doesn't lend considerable room for projection. Hu should be a .270 hitter with 10 home runs annually in the big leagues. Ticketed for Double-A, he should reach Los Angeles by the end of 2007.
While the Dodgers' high-profile Pacific Rim signings of Hong-Chih Kuo and Chin-Feng Chen have not paid off, Hu has stepped forward as a potential impact Taiwanese prospect. Former special assistant to the GM Jeff Schugel scouted Hu during the 2002 World Junior Championship in Sherbrooke, Quebec and the Dodgers signed him five months later. He hit safely in 15 of 20 games following a late-season promotion to high Class A before going down with a right elbow injury. Hu's best tool is his glove. He was named the best defensive shortstop in the low Class A South Atlantic League and turns in acrobatic highlight plays up the middle with regularity. He makes good reads on grounders, has a smooth exchange from glove to throwing hand, plus range and an accurate, adequate arm. Hu is undersized and his frame doesn't lend to considerable growth potential, but his strength shouldn't be underestimated. Some scouts project Hu's power potential as average. He generates good bat speed and drives the ball to both alleys, with occasional home-run power. He handles the bat well, shows good instincts on the bases and is an above-average runner, though he's not a burner. Moreover, Hu has embraced American culture, is beginning to grasp the language and has adapted well. He likely will open the season in high Class A.
The Dodgers have a long history of success in the Far East and continue to be one of the more active major league clubs in that region. They're still waiting on returns from their Taiwanese investments in Chin-Feng Chen and oft-injured Hong-Chih Kuo, and Hu is their latest signee. He signed after special assistant to the GM Jeff Schugel scouted the 2002 World Junior Championship, where Hu hit .474 with four home runs in 38 at-bats as Taiwan's leadoff man. The Dodgers' 2003 draft brought an influx of potential middle infielders, but none of them can match Hu's athleticism and natural shortstop actions. He already has garnered comparisons to Rey Ordonez for his acrobatic defensive plays and strong arm. Despite his small stature, Hu doesn't get the bat knocked out of his hands. He's deceptively strong, capable of driving the ball with his line-drive swing and plus bat speed. He's also an above-average runner. Hu is fairly selective at the plate but needs to learn how to better cover the plate, use the whole field and draw more walks. He'll hit near the top of the lineup in low Class A this year.
Minor League Top Prospects
The Dodgers always believed Hu would hit, and the diminutive Taiwanese's offensive game turned the corner this year following his lackluster showing in a half-season in Jacksonville in 2006. His .325 average ranked third in the minors among full-season shortstops and he took home Futures Game MVP honors before earning promotions to Triple-A and eventually the majors. His outstanding defensive package--with the arm strength, footwork and hands of a Gold Glover--is his calling card, but he has honed his approach and become a tough out at the plate. Hu has gap power, consistently centers the top half of the ball and uses the whole field well. He's a slightly above-average runner. "He's a good shortstop who has the blend of tools and baseball player," a third scout scout said. "He's not going to just be a scratch guy at the plate and I really liked his defense."
After struggling to hit in Double-A last year, Hu batted a combined .325 with 40 doubles and 15 homers between that level and Triple-A in 2007. He also won the MVP award at the Futures Game and made his major league debut in September. A plus defender at shortstop, Hu has great hands and range, good actions and a plus arm. He's an above-average runner and an energetic all-around athlete. As good as Hu's numbers were this season, his offensive approach remains unrefined. He tends to pull off the ball with his inside-out swing. Because he steps in the bucket, scouts had questions about how he'd handle more advanced pitching--though he does have more strength than his 5-foot-9 frame suggests. An aggressive batter, Hu likes to take the first fastball he can handle and put it in play, and he struck out just 51 times in 517 minor league at-bats. His approach leaves him vulnerable to streaks and slumps, however, and unless he cleans up his mechanics, he projects to hit about .260 in the majors.
Abreu's double-play partner was a defensive star who also showed a solid approach at the plate. "He's one of the most polished players in the league," Cossins said. Hu has excellent flexibility, fluid actions, soft hands and a quick first step that let him gobble up grounders up the middle. His strong, accurate arm also allowed him to make the play in the hole as well. And he showed the instincts and understanding of positioning that ensured he was usually in the right place. At the plate, Hu fits the profile of a traditional No. 2 hitter. He's very happy to hit the ball the other way, but he also has enough pop to turn on a pitch and hit it out if a pitcher makes a mistake. Despite his 5-foot-9 frame, he got good plate coverage, but like Abreu he needs to show more patience.
The Sally League didn't have a surefire big league shortstop, but that's only because Hu's small stature (5-foot-9, 150 pounds) would make him unusual by 21st-century standards. He was the clear consensus choice as the league's top shortstop over Greensboro's Robert Andino, Kannapolis' Roberto Valido and Hickory's Javier Guzman. Managers agreed Hu had the best combination of true shortstop actions, arm strength and enough bat to make it to the big leagues as a shortstop. Signed out of Taiwan and in his first full season, he was above average in four tools and drew comparisons to Rafael Furcal, though he can't match Furcal's top-of-the-line arm strength. One scout said he was tempted to grade Hu's power as average despite his size. Hu has excellent bat speed, centers the ball well and has a repeatable, easy swing.
The Dodgers lacked a pure shortstop prospect before they signed Hu out of Taiwan in February. He drew comparisons to Rey Ordonez by making acrobatic plays, and several managers said Hu can be a better defender because of his consistency with routine grounders. Hu has a natural feel for the game, with excellent quickness, soft hands and above-average arm strength. The lone concern regarding Hu is his body. At 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, he needs to add strength. Nevertheless, he hit .305 and showed the ability to drive pitches to left-center field.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the Pacific Coast League in 2007
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the Southern League in 2007
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the Southern League in 2006
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the South Atlantic League in 2004