Tsung-Che Cheng is currently on the injured list in Bradenton with a minor injury.
“He slid into third and got a little banged up, so we’re just making sure that he’s 100 percent before we get him back in there,” said Bradenton manager Jonathan Johnston.
The Pirates don’t want to rush the 20-year-old Cheng back and risk a more serious injury. It makes a lot of sense to exercise caution with one of the best position players at the level.
Prior to his injury, Cheng had a .257/.327/.407 line in 140 at-bats, with two homers and a lot of extra base hits. I wrote for Baseball America this month about how he’s finding some power from a small frame, relying on a quick bat that stays through the plane of the ball well.
Cheng has been inconsistent with his attack at the plate this year. He’s got a good eye, with a 23.7% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate. He just doesn’t always attack the right pitches.
“I just want to see him do it consistently,” Johnston said of Cheng’s return. “He knows what he needs to do. He’s progressing and trending in the right direction in all facets.”
Johnston continued, breaking down the key strength of Cheng’s game: “He’s the type of guy who has an elite level of focus, an elite level of drive to do what he needs to do to get there.”
The Pirates want players learning from early struggles, especially in the lower levels. Cheng originally got on the prospect radar for his $380,000 signing bonus out of Taiwan in 2019. He went on to hit for a .311/.449/.492 line in the Florida Complex League last year during his pro debut.
He’s yet to struggle until now, as he’s being tested as one of the younger players in Single-A.
Cheng has only shown flashes of his contact abilities this year. He has value defensively, with an ability to stick at shortstop due to his speed and range. He adds value on the bases, with nine steals in ten attempts this year, after 16 in 22 attempts last year.
Most of the Bradenton offense has been inconsistent, so Cheng is far from the only person who has shown raw abilities at the plate that haven’t always translated over to the stats. Thus is life in Single-A.
When the decision making at the plate improves, and Cheng more consistently attacks pitches in his zone, we should see improvements with his average and ability to get on base.
That value at the plate, added to his ability to stick at short and add speed on the bases, makes Cheng an interesting lower-level sleeper to follow this year.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Williams: The Growing Pains of Single-A
Carlos Jimenez Has Emerged As One of the Pirates’ Best Lower Level Pitching Prospects
Anthony Solometo: High Changeup Usage Highlights Debut
Bradenton Statcast: Who Is Hitting The Ball Well?
Tsung-Che Cheng: “He’s the type of guy who has an elite level of focus, an elite level of drive”
Joelvis Del Rosario is Starting to Make a Name For Himself
Brenden Dixon: Approach Leading To Success As Bradenton’s Table Setter
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
He has been a disappointment so far this season to me…I was expecting a lot more from him especially average wise. But he has done enough to still be a promising young player.