2-16-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
Once a year the Pirates Fanbase is inundated with a list of prospects that Pittsburgh has inked to deals during the International Signing Period. Then without fail, these young man are quickly pushed to the back of nearly everyone’s minds, until hopefully one day they show up at PNC Park.
This season it was Jun-Seok Shim-the #10 International Prospect on MLB Pipeline, who caught the eye of Pittsburgh’s scouts; and in turn Pirates Fans. The young man from South Korea first showed up on the radar back in 2020, while pitching for Duksoo High School in Seoul.
At 6’4” and 215 pounds, this 18 year-old looks like a grown man as he lights up the zone with a 94-96 mph fastball and 12-6 curveball; along with a potential plus slider and changeup.
In 2022, Yordany De Los Santos and Tony Blanco, Jr. were the headliners of the class. At 6’5” and 230 pounds-at only 16 years-old-Blanco, Jr. towered over nearly any other prospect you could imagine; and possesses an unbelievable amount of raw power.
De Los Santos on the other hand is more of a contact hitter with plus defensive potential, that could possibly stick as shortstop; not that these are bad things.
Back in January of 2021, Ben Cherington and Company made a pretty big splash by inking the #11 International Prospect on MLB Pipeline-16 year old Dominican Outfielder Shalin Polanco-to a near record $2.35 million signing bonus.
However, it was the October 20, 2020 signing of then 19 year-old Taiwanese Pitcher Po-Yu Chen that really put the new Pirates Regime on the map as far as the International Market was concerned.
Yet, to tell the full story, we have to go back a little bit further.
On August 28, 2020 the Pirates-and more specifically Ben Cherington-traded outfielder Jarod Dyson to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for an additional $243,300 of international bonus pool space; a bump in available funds that they eventually put into signing Chen for $1.25 million.
In 2019 the 6’2” 198 pound right-handed hurler pitched in the WSBC U-18 Baseball World Cup, where he put up a 1.29 ERA over a total of 14 innings thanks to his high 80s/low 90s sinking fastball, curve ball and somewhat advanced changeup.
With the Pirates, Chen would begin his professional career in the FCL; a situation in which he was nothing shorting of dominating. Over 26 innings of work he did not walk a single batter, struck out 29-good for a rate of 10.0 K/9-and posted an nearly identical 0.69 ERA and .692 WHIP.
Unfortunately his transition to Low-A Bradenton did not go smoothly as put up a 5.63 ERA and a 1.688 WHIP, while walking 12 and striking out 15; although his one start was a 7 inning, 3 hit, 0 run and 6 K performance.
At 20-still a full two years younger than the average Low-A ball player-Chen would be tasked with repeating the level in order to refine his pitch-mix; while emphasizing his strengths at the same time.
The result(s) were a mixed bag.
One start he would look absolutely dominating; as can be seen in the first two videos below.
Then he would hit a speed bump, like he did against Fort Meyers in his last start of the season. Although, he still seemed to be in control-at times-even during these outings.
On the year Chen would post a 4.58 ERA and a 1.261 WHIP with 103 strikeouts across 98.1 innings of work. Looking into the advanced stats, a 3.76 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) and 3.81 xFIP, it’s possible he got a little unlucky; however, his .300 BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play) is right around average, so maybe the real number is somewhere in between.
Most likely slated to join the Greensboro Grasshoppers Rotation in 2023, Chen could see his numbers inflate slightly; albeit, he doesn’t really fit into a predominantly fly-ball and/or ground-ball pitcher, with rates of 30.1% and 41.4%.
I guess we will all just have to wait and see. And, by see I mean, I hope he pitches on the road; that is unless Greensboro updated its streaming capabilities.
3 thoughts on “Through The Prospect Porthole: Po-Yu Chen”
I think I like this years international class the best yet. Of course, Jun-SeokShim and Raymond Mola. But I also like Cristian Jauregui(the Cuban OF). Yosmar Gimenez is a 6’2, super athletic, SS, that comes with a good scouting report. Angel Aquino is a 6’5, 200 pound, power hitting OF. Plus, the three(3) Catchers seem to have some potential.
I like the pitchers too. Carlos Mateo got the biggest bonus at 800K. Keuri Almonte is a big projectable lefty SP. And the kid from Uganda, David Matoma, seems to have advanced stuff for his age. They signed an Australian pitcher, Jackson Grounds, late last year too that has yet to debut and should start stateside in the FCL.
Although the 2019 class of Luis Ortiz, Carlos Jimenez, Dariel Lopez, R.Nolasco, Juan Jerez, Sergio Campana, Adrian Florencio, Jauri Custodio, Alexander Mojica, Geovanny Planchart, Rayber Romero, and Luis Tejada, is looking good. And Enmanuel Mejia and Deivis Nadal both got taken in the MiLB Rule 5 draft this year.
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Definitely starting to make some waves in the international market. However, in the end it all still comes down to development. I am partial to last year’s class because of Axiel Plaz. I know he’s still raw and super young, but I can’t help but get enamored by the potential.