14. Yu-Cheng Chang – Shortstop
Born: 08/18/1995 – Height: 6’1” – Weight: 175 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Chang is an undrafted international free agent that the Indians signed out of Taichung Agricultural High in Taiwan for $500,000 in June 2013. He played at the 16U World Championship in Mexico in 2011 and was named to the all-tournament team. His brother Jin-De Jhang is a catcher who was signed by the Pirates in June 2011 and is still in their system and was a non-roster invitee to Major League spring training this year. Last season he finished 5th in the Carolina League in runs (78), 10th in doubles (30), 3rd in triples (8), 6th in home runs (13), 8th in RBI (70), 9th in total bases (193), 6th in slugging percentage (.463) and 9th in OPS (.795).
Offense: Chang is an offensive-oriented player who is a well-rounded hitter and has the above average tools with the bat to impact the game in many different ways. His bat is his best tool as he displays some good hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball ability to hit for average, and has an advanced approach at the plate where he works counts well, draws some walks and uses a whole field approach. His swing is one of the best you will see from the right side as it is a very simple, low maintenance swing that he really repeats well and is quick and compact with a very efficient load in his lower half and a very clean stroke with his bat path which enables him to consistently square up the ball. He is a physical player for a shortstop as he is big and strong with some strength in his wrists and forearms which aide in his power production. His power is solid average in that he shows very good bat speed and really does a nice job of consistently driving balls into the gaps with authority. The Indians believe that he could have above average power down the road as he continues make adjustments to his swing, fills out his frame naturally with maturity and he adds more strength and weight through a strength and conditioning program.
Defense: Chang is a fundamentally sound defender who is not flashy or has big tools, but who is very consistent and makes all of the routine plays. His footwork is good, his actions are smooth, his hands are soft, his instincts are strong and the arm is above average. He displays some good agility, quickness and athleticism in the field and really does a good job of slowing the game down and keeping things under control. Last season he had a solid season defensively ranking 1st in the Carolina League among shortstops in fielding percentage. There is much more to being a good defender than a good fielding percentage as it doesn’t show range or how many balls a player didn’t get to that he should have, but it at least shows how he has a reliable glove and handles most everything he can get to. As he continues to get bigger and stronger the belief is that he will eventually have to be moved to third base as his bat and arm would fit there well. He could also end up at second base or in the outfield as his offensive and defensive profile fit almost any position – though the Indians are expected to exhaust all possibilities at shortstop.
Speed & Intangibles: Chang is an average runner whose speed plays up because of his confidence, intelligence and instincts he displays when he is on the basepaths. He doesn’t speak English or Spanish well, but he does not isolate himself and instead goes out of his way to be part of his team and getting to know his teammates. He has worked hard to learn the English language and has really done a nice job of adapting and learning to become comfortable living in the American culture. He invests in his body as he takes place in strength and conditioning camps that the Indians strength coaches put on during the offseason. He is well beyond his years as he shows an advanced maturity for his age, competes well and has an excellent makeup and a strong work ethic.
Focus: The Indians were very impressed with Chang’s continued growth as a person last season and how he has really become more comfortable living in the American culture and playing baseball in the United States almost year-round. They liked how he carried himself in a more comfortable manner in the conversations with his teammates and coaching staff and feel that growth was one of the main things he really made some strides in last season. At the plate, the Indians want him to continue to work to be a little more aggressive. He struggled at Low-A Lake County in 2015 because he was a little bit timid in his approach which led to some inconsistency and being late with his swing. When he’s up at the plate in attack mode, aggressive, and confident, that’s when he is at his best. He needs to continue to work on his timing against higher velocities by getting ready sooner, putting his body in a better position to hit and being a little quicker and smoother with his swing. As he gets older he will face higher octane arms and with better stuff, so with added reps and more games played, all of those things will help him get better naturally as a hitter. He needs to develop his routines and the way he prepares for games, and at times the game will get a little ahead of him so he has to learn to try and not do too much. The Indians want him to fine tune his approach and work to get better at using the entire field, and develop a better feel for how pitchers are pitching to him and recognizing offspeed offerings. Defensively, he needs to continue to work on improving his footwork by showing more efficient and faster lateral movements to his left and right and getting better reads off contact.
Future: Chang spent the entire year at High-A Lynchburg last season and had a strong season offensively, which was a big improvement over his disappointing 2015 campaign at Low-A Lake County. Considering his strong offensive showing in 2014 and 2016, perhaps his 2015 season at Lake County is the outlier as he had some injury issues that year with a concussion and a sprain of his right 5th finger which limited him for significant stretches of that season. His final numbers last season are actually lower than they could have been as he was actually hitting .275 with an .838 OPS before suffering a sprained wrist on August 2nd which kept him out of the lineup and then impacted his performance the final 15 games when he returned (6-for-44, .136 AVG). Prior to the injury the Indians marveled at his improved consistency over the season and how his approach improved and the power started to show more consistently. He racked up 51 extra base hits and a .204 isolated power percentage and saw his walk rate climb from a 6.1 BB% in 2015 to a 9.4 BB% last season. He is starting to look like a Jhonny Peralta type of power-hitting middle infield prospect for the Indians who is solid defensively but brings some good upside offensively where he can really impact the baseball. He looks primed to move up to Double-A Akron to open the season and should spend a majority – if not all – of the season there.
Ranking History: #22 (2016), #12 (2015)