When you think about baseball powers, you think of the obvious choices (Japan, Dominican Republic, USA, Puerto Rico, etc.). However, Chinese Taipei has quietly qualified for every single World Baseball Classic and is ranked fourth on the WBSC rankings. Led by manager Kuo Tai-Yuan, Chinese Taipei will look to surprise some people in Pool A of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Chinese Taipei joins South Korea, the Netherlands, and Israel as members of Pool A. Chinese Taipei lucked into a relatively easier group, but will still have a difficult path out of the group. They have been grouped with South Korea before, where they were crushed in 2009, but this year should be different. Chinese Taipei is fielding a far better team that rolled its way into this years classic with ease.
When you think of the most successful MLB pitcher in recent years to come from Chinese Taipei it is Chien Ming Wang. Wang is a veteran of nine major league seasons with the New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays and most recently the Kansas City Royals. The veteran will serve as an example for some of the young talent on the roster and could prove to be an important clutch time pitcher.
In addition, the Cleveland Indians are sending two prospects to join the team — pitcher Shao-Ching Chang and Ping-Hsueh Chen. Chang had a great deal of success as a starter at Low-A Lake County, while Chen was a solid reliever at Short Season-A Mahoning Valley. In addition, the Milwaukee Brewers are sending another pitcher, Wei Chung Wang, who debuted in the majors with Milwaukee in 2014, but hasn't returned since.
While pitching will be a strength for this team, they will need some offensive support. Che-Hsuan Lin and Chin-Lung Hu both have brief major league experience (with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively) and will patrol the outfield. In the infield, former top Red Sox and Mariners prospect Chih-Hsien Chang will look to make an impact with Chih-Sheng Lin in a veteran, but solid infield.
The young minor league and big league talent is solid on its own. Cleveland has done a great job molding Chang and Chen, and while they are young, they could serve important innings for this team. In addition, keep an eye out for the 5-foot-9 wonder kid Yen Ching Lu. He is just 20 years old, and already impressing people throughout the team and events ranks with his pitching. Look for him to use this as a jumping off point for his budding career.
Pitchers: Yen-Ching Lu, Ping-Hsueh Chen, Shao-Ching Chen, Ko-Hua Lo, Chia-Hao Sung, Wei-Chung Wang, Chun-Lin Kuo, Kuan-Yu Chen, Chen-Hua Lin, Hung-Wen Chen, Ching-Ming Wang, Ming-Chin Tsai, Fu-Te Ni, Wei-Lun Pan, Chien-Ming Wang, Chien-Fu Yang, Yu-Wen Chen, Shen-Hsuing Huang, Hung-Cheng Lai, Cheng-Hao Weng, Chun-Chieh Wu
Catchers: Kun-Sheng Lin, Da-Hong Chen
Infielders: Chi-Hung Su, Chih-Hsiang Lin, Yi-Chuan Lin, Sheng-Wei Wang, Yung-Chi Chen, Chih-Sheng Lin
Outfielders: Che-Hsuan Lin, Chih-Hao Chang, Cheng-Wei Chang, Kuo-Hui Kao, Chin-Lung Hu, Kuo-Long Luo
The team will look to build on its moderate success at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but appears to be fielding a more competitive team with some intriguing young players. While it seems unlikely the team will be factors in the championship conversation, they could be very competitive in Pool A and could surprise a lot of people. If circumstances are good, the team could become a minor cinderella story.