The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed 18-year-old right-handed pitcher Haicheng Gong as an international free agent. He pitched for China during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, allowing one hit, while recording one out. He is the second players to sign out of MLB’s Development Center in China. Gong first attended the center in 2012.
Gong is 6’2″, 165 pounds and turned 18 in December. Last summer, he spent eight weeks at a Baseball Academy held by the Lakewood BlueClaws, Low-A team of the Philadelphia Phillies. The camp was set up to help Chinese players get accustomed to American baseball and culture. In September, he was named the best right-handed pitcher during the U18 Baseball Federation of Asia Championship Tournament, which also included teams from Japan and Korea. Gong pitched six shutout innings against the Philippines in that tournament, striking out eight batters.
Here is video of Gong, who reportedly hits 90 MPH with his fastball, though it is 84-87 MPH in this clip from March. That was up from 81-84 MPH in a tournament from last September:
We have updated our international signing tracker, which now includes 23 players signed since July 2, 2016. The Pirates also sent along a photo of Gong agreeing to his deal. He is shaking hands with Roger Chiang, who is an international scout for the Pirates. For accuracy sake, the Pirates list his name as Hai-Cheng, which is different from everywhere else.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Spoke to one of his coaches in China. His name is Hai-Cheng Gong. The first name can be written in English as Haicheng – but it in Chinese it is two separate characters which is why it can have a hyphen in the middle. The coach said he is a hard worker.
Somebody buy this kid a sandwich. 6’2″/165…
His first name abbreviated H.C. on back of jersey. We wish you luck “High Cheese” Gong.
Is this communist China or Taipei?
If they hit on one…we will all be excited.
Another first for the Bucs. Ngoepe, the first African in MLB. Neverauskas, the first Lithuanian born MLB player. A few years ago the firsts Indians signed to a pro contract. Now Gong the first Chinese to sign. The Bucs may not pony up to sign a lot of Cubans, but they do spread their net wide in the search for players.
He’s got the prototypical height, maybe an inch shy, the front office likes in pitchers with room to grow into his frame and more than likely some extra velocity as he fills out his frame. That curve he threw as his next to last pitch in the video had a nice break to it too despite being way outside and low. Seems like a decent pitcher to give a shot. Hope it works out.
He’ll definitely add weight and fill out.
Hopefully he can pick up Kang on his way over to the states.
With a stealth jet and a hook around his waist…Dark Knight style
Will he remain in China for the time being? When will he come to the US?
Due to his age and the fact he has been in the U.S. already for an extended time, he will probably report to Pirate City soon. Only reason players don’t report right away is school and he seems to be past that stage. No confirmation on that, but once he goes there, we will note it.
I checked the Chinese reports on the signing. He’s a senior at the MLB Development Center and should be graduating/already graduated by late May. So there should be no problem for him to come to Pirates City on this end.
Has anyone checked his driving record?
That works on more than one level 😉 Nice one!
No bicycle accidents so far.
What about the hoverboard report?
The New Gong Show?