Name: Jen-Ho Tseng , P
Age: 20 (10/3/1994)
How acquired: Signed as a free agent July 25, 2013, out of Taiwan. Scouted by Steve Wilson and Paul Weaver.
Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Low A (19 G, 6-1, 2.40 ERA, 105 IP, 15 BB, 85 K, 0.87 WHIP)
Prior to Cubs
Tseng gained recognition in 2012 at the Asian Baseball Championships when he tossed six shutout innings in a start for the Chinese Taipei National team as a 17-year-old high schooler. He also appeared in a World Baseball Classic qualifier game for Chinese Taipei in 2013, and was a member of the junior national team. He showcased his talents at the 2012 World Junior Championship with 22 K in 21 innings and a 0.84 ERA in six games. Rated as one of the top 2013 international pitching prospects, Tseng was courted by several teams but signed with the Cubs in late July for a reported $1.625 million.
Tseng made his U.S. debut at the Cubs Fall Instructional League in October of ’13 but was hit by a line drive in the leg in his second inning of work and left the game. He returned a week later and tossed a pair of scoreless innings in his final outing.
During media day at Kane County I had a chance to talk with pitching coach David Rosario about how Cubs have brought pitchers like Duane Underwood and Paul Blackburn slowly up the system, having to prove themselves at each level, and not giving the young arms “too much to handle.” Then we talked about Tseng, “We want to see how he handles it,” Rosario said of the 18-year-old who made his pro debut in the full-season Midwest League. When I saw Rosario a few months later he said with a big smile, “He’s handling it really well.” What impressed Rosario the most was Tseng’s ability to pitch to contact, something that’s hard for a young pitcher to learn. “He’s not afraid to get hit and put the ball in play.” That mentality helped the right-hander keep his pitch counts down, and along with his command of three pitches, only walked 1.3 per nine. In his pro debut on April 8 against Fort Wayne, Tseng gave up eight hits and three runs in five innings—that would be the exception not the rule. Tseng allowed three or fewer earned runs in 16 of his 17 starts and surrendered two or fewer walks in 15 starts. He fanned a career-high eight on June 14 at Beloit in five one-hit innings, held Clinton to a single in five relief innings on July 6, and worked six shutout innings in a one-hit outing on July 18 at Lansing. His only loss of the season came on July 30 at Wisconsin, allowing a run over seven innings. MWL hitters had a slash line of .204/.241/.308 and he finished with a 0.87 WHIP. In the MWL playoff opener, Tseng only needed 67 pitches to work through six frames to beat Wisconsin and then matched his career high with 8 K in a Game 1 win over Lake County in the finals.
Tseng has a good late moving fastball that sits in the low 90s and can push it up to 94. He has the ability to throw his curve for strikes at anytime in the count and his change-up may be his best pitch. Tseng’s not imposing on the mound and won’t light up any radar guns but when the game’s over, his team has usually won and there’s not many crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Tseng is more than likely headed to Myrtle Beach to start the year and could wind up in AA before the end of the season; although I wouldn’t be surprised if he started the year at Tennessee.