Stronger, Smarter Hu Poised for The Show

A year ago, when those supposedly in the know discussed shortstop Chin-lung Hu, their heads would wag from side-to-side. Just as they had always predicted, he can't handle tough pitching, they would say. And in the winter when the list of prospects came out, he was passed on the shortstop depth chart for by Ivan De Jesus, Jr. But that's all changed.

However, after the 2007 season the Dodgers named Hu their Minor League Player of the Year. He was the MVP of the Futures Game, and at Jacksonville he hit .329 with six homers and 34 RBIs in 82 games and .318 with eight homers and 18 RBIs in 45 games at Las Vegas.

Now heads bob up and down when Hu's name is mentioned and the negative choruses have been muted. For Hu came into camp in 2007 with a new look, a hardened body and contacts to correct a visual problem that caused his hitting fall-off in 2006. Still, he was reassigned to Jacksonville.

He proved without a doubt he could hit there and after being promoted to Las Vegas, he demonstrated that AAA pitching is no mystery to him, either. Now, when he's talked about, it's to discuss him as a successor to the Dodgers $13-million dollar man, Rafael Furcal, who is in the final year of his three-year contract.

The fact that the native of Taiwan has always appeared so small has been one of the main reasons why people have been quick to downplay his ability with a bat. He's now listed at 5-11, 191 but really doesn't seem that large. His glovework has never been in dispute; his arm is more than adequate for short, his range is excellent and his attitude is among the best.

While Hu has climbed back onto the top rung among Dodger minor league shortstops, DeJesus has been pushed back a bit but that's a tribute to Hu's resurgence not because Ivan, Jr, the son of the former big leaguer. He had a strong year at Inland Empire, can make the plays as well and hits more than often enough to keep him in consideration.

It was one of the surprises of spring training that Hu wasn't promoted to Las Vegas but, rather, kept at Jacksonville for another season. For three years he and second baseman Tony Abreu had formed an adroit double play combination but that was ended when Tony went to Las Vegas (and, subsequently to L.A.) while Hu stayed behind.

He's always been muscular and over the winter he solidified even more. The results were evident when he was hitting .329 at the 82-game mark with 30 doubles (a figure that led the Suns), five triples and six home runs. He added 12 stolen bases in 16 attempts.

He was chosen to play in the Futures Game for the second straight year. He was also the MVP of the game and, coincidentally, teammate Clayton Kershaw was the winning pitcher.

Hu was also named as the starting shortstop for the Southern League All-Star game in Pearl, Mississippi, but was unable to participate due to his advancement to Triple-A. It was the fourth straight year Hu was chosen on post-season All-Star teams, having been named in the South Atlantic League in 2004 and in the Florida State League in 2005 in addition to his two Southern League selections.

Promoted to Las Vegas, the slick-fielding Taiwanese import batted .318 over 45 games, with 10 more doubles, eight home runs and 28 RBI for the Triple-A 51's.

Hu made his Major League debut on September 1 after being called up and hit .241 in his first chance as a big leaguer, adding a triple and a pair of homers plus knocking in five runs.

His explosive season saw him lead the franchise in runs scored (89) and hits (168). He was third in batting (.325), on-base plus slugging (.871) and doubles (40); fourth in triples (6), seventh in stolen bases (15), surprisingly, ninth in homers (14) and 10th in runs batted in (62) and on-base percentage (.364).

The Sporting News named on its All-Prospect team that salutes the players who are the coming stars at each position.

At 5-9, 152 pounds, Hu was first scouted in his native Taiwan, and signed after an impressive performance in the 2002 World Junior Championships in which he hit .474 with four home runs in just 38 at-bats. He batted .305 in his rookie season at Ogden in 2003; then in 2004 hit .298 with six home runs at Columbus before a promotion to Vero Beach where he followed with a .307 average before being shut down with a sore arm.

He displayed gap power as demonstrated by his 29 doubles, eight home runs and 56 runs batted in while hitting .313 for Vero in 2005. In 2006, though, he managed only a .254 mark and had problems in the AFL although his overall performance but still good enough to be named to the Future Stars showcase for that league.

His drop off in performance was understandable because his season started in January with intensive drills for the World Baseball Classic in which he was chosen to play for his country. And, although he faced a lot of good pitching in that series, he stroked the ball, hitting. 417.

Then came a hurried spring training, followed by the Southern League season, league playoffs and then the Arizona Instructional League. He was finishing his 10th straight month so it's no wonder that he was drooping rather than driving the ball as sharply as before.

His detractors maintained because of his small build he would never swing a bat well enough to play in the major leagues. But then, with the help of added muscle, came his break-put season in 2007.

His glove has been major-league quality for some time and now he could certainly step in and hit enough to become a regular in The Show. But with Furcal on the scene it would make sense to let him play regularly at Las Vegas and then take over as the starting shortstop in 2009.

His record:
Chin-Lung Hu   br  tr  5-10  191
Born- February 7, 1984
Obtained- Signed as a free agent 2003

year	team   ave   obp    gm   ab   r    h  2b 3b  hr  bi  sb
2003	Ogden  .305  .343   53  220  34   67   9  5   3  23   5
2004	Colmb  .298  .342   84  332  58   99  15  4   6  25  17
	VBech  .307  .350   20   76  12   23   4  1   0  10   3
2005	VBech  .313  .347  116  470  80  147  29  1   8  56  23
2006	Jackn  .254  .326  125  488  71  124  20  5   2  34  11
2007	Jackn  .329  .380   82  325  56  107  30  5   6  34  12
	LVegs  .318  .335   45  192  33   61  10  1   8  28   3
	L.A.   .241  .241   12   29   5    7   0  1   2   5   0

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