Chun-Hsiu Chen, 23, is one of the better middle-tier catching prospects in baseball; not quite elite – he’s lacking the overall bat speed for that – but he’s certainly a noteworthy prospect who could eventually carve out a nice big league career as a backstop with solid-average pop and decent walk rates.
After a rough start to his professional career – he hit .261/.336/.409 and .215/.328/.308 during his first two seasons – the Taiwanese-born Chen broke out in 2010. Always regarded as an offensive-minded catching prospect, he hit .312/.368/.518 in 240 plate appearances with the Lake County Captains (A-ball), big numbers in an environment that was more or less neutral. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 41% better than the league average.
Cleveland promoted him to Kinston midway through the season where his numbers, surprisingly, improved. In 217 PA with the K-Indians he hit .320/.442/.517 and was 70% better than the league average. His combined ISO (isolated power) that season, .206, tied for tenth best at the position, in the entire minor leagues, ahead of both Ryan Lavarnway and Will Myers, just to name a few. Oh, yeah, he also walked in 12% of his plate appearances too.
Last season, his first in Double-A, his numbers regressed as he faced better competition. He produced 13% above the league average level as his numbers sank to a triple-slash line of .260/.330/.450. He still showed solid power – he set a career high with 16 homeruns and posted an ISO of .190 – but his walk rate dropped nearly three percentage points, to 9.2%.
In spite of the steep decline, though, his above-average plate discipline coupled with his solid-average power should bode well for his future, but his bat speed – average at best – will ultimately limit his ceiling. He’s still rather raw defensively – though he does display an above-average arm – and his overall footwork must improve. Chen’s MLB ceiling is that of a .260/.330/.420 catcher, solid numbers from the position, but far from elite.
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