59. Shao-Ching Chiang - Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 11/10/1993 – Height: 6’0” – Weight: 175 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Chiang was signed by the Indians out of Taiwan for $250,000 in October 2011. He suffered a right elbow injury in his first pro start in June of 2012 which resulted in Tommy John surgery and limited him to just two total appearances in his first two seasons in 2012 and 2013.
Stuff: Chiang has a nice three pitch mix and shows an ability to command all of them and really attacks the zone with his fastball. His average fastball sits at 88-92 MPH and will touch 94 MPH at times, and has shown some velocity gains post-surgery and continued improvement with his average velocity as he now more regularly sits 90-92 MPH late into his starts. He shows an ability to command and locate his fastball well to both sides of the plate and has no fear throwing it inside to both lefties and righties. His curveball and changeup are both solid across the board as he shows a good feel for both of them and have a chance to be average offerings for him. His slurvy curveball has improved and he can throw it for strikes, and he is still working to gain more confidence in his developing split-changeup and more depth to it.
Delivery & Intangibles: Chiang has a very thin frame that doesn’t have much strength but has some athleticism. He has a loose arm and throws from a high three-quarter slot, and has a mechanically sound delivery that he repeats well. He is not someone who is going to overpower hitters and miss a lot of bats, so instead he is someone who adopts a pitch-to-contact approach by working quickly, aggressively filling the zone with strikes, hitting his spots and making his opponents earn everything they get.
Focus: Chiang is still a little behind in his development because he basically missed two seasons of development due to injury and he came in as an inexperienced pitcher to begin with as he was mostly an outfielder in Taiwan. The Indians want him to continue to show durability and to show improved strength with his arm – something he has done to date with some increased arm strength and also making all of his starts last season. He has lacked much confidence on the mound and trust in his arm since returning to the mound post-surgery – though his uptick in performance in the second half of last season is believed to be the result of an improved mental mindset which was great to see. They also want him to get a little better with the sequencing of his pitches and use his fastball more effectively to set up his secondary offerings. They are still working to find a proper balance in his delivery to get more intent, power and tempo to it without impacting the command of his fastball too much. He tends to get top heavy in his delivery which disconnects him from his lower half, so the Indians want him to solidify it so he is more in sync with his bottom and top half which may create more power. He still lacks a put away pitch which limits his potential, although there is some upside to his curveball if he can get more consistent with the shape of it and keep it around the zone and also add a little more depth to his changeup.
Future: Chiang is older but there is some upside because he’s just now finally to a place where he is 100% healthy and confident. He put up some rather ordinary numbers last season, but he rebounded from an okay first half (13 GS, 4.97 ERA) with a strong second half showing (14 GS, 3.14 ERA). His performance after the All Star break was a sign of his potential as he started to trust his health, stuff and abilities and he was strong going six or more innings in 10 of his last 13 starts. He is the epitome of a pitch-to-contact pitcher as he racked up a very low 1.5 BB/9 and got a decent amount of groundballs (1.15 GO/AO), though didn’t get many strikeouts (5.4 K/9). So while he doesn’t blow the ball by hitters or have a knee-buckling breaking ball, the ability to get groundballs and work quickly is an interesting skill set which the Indians like and one that they plan to continue to develop as a starting pitcher. If his confidence truly has returned, the Indians believe that along with minor improvements with his velocity, sequencing and offspeed stuff that he could be on track for a breakout campaign this season. He should open the season at High-A Lynchburg.
Ranking History: #61 (2016), #80 (2015)