Scouting Jays Prospect #21: Chi-Hung Cheng

Scouting Jays Prospect #21: Chi-Hung Cheng

Chi-Hung Cheng had an outstanding season for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2006, and was working hard down in Instructs on his fastball and command, when he felt something wrong with his shoulder and had it checked out. An MRI showed Cheng had torn his labrum, and underwent surgery two weeks ago. As a result Cheng dropped several slots than what he could have been ranked.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Chi-Hung Cheng
Position: Pitcher
DOB: June 20, 1985
Height: 6'1
Weight: 200
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Chi-Hung Cheng went 11-5 with a 2.70 ERA in 28 starts for Lansing this past season, while fanning 154 batters in 143 1/3 innings. While his season was a success, he did struggle with his command for a second consecutive season, and was invited to Instructs to work on his command, and his fastball.

When Cheng arrived he started to complain about a tired arm. The Jays immediately shut him down and had him undergo an MRI – which showed terrible news. Cheng had a 25 percent tear in the labrum, and underwent surgery at the end of September.

"He will probably not pitch until the middle of next year," Blue Jays Director of Player Development Dick Scott said. "He is rehabbing in Taiwan and will report to spring training to start a throwing program."

The 21-year-old was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Blue Jays on November 26, 2003. In 2004 he went 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 14 starts with Pulaski, and in 2005 he pitched for Lansing once again, going 7-6 with a 3.15 ERA in 137 innings.

Cheng is a former Little League World Series champion who took the mound in the 1996 championship game for Taiwan. The left-hander was signed by the Jays on December 3, 2003 from the Blue Jays Taiwanese Baseball Academy and brought over to the United States that winter.

"The offensive side of the game is more conservative in Taiwan," Cheng said recently. "Here, the players are more aggressive as far as hitting and running the bases."

On top of trying to make the transition to life on the field, Cheng is also trying to adjust to the culture of living in North America and is doing so with the help of his teammate Po-Husan Keng.

"It's definitely a big help having him here. We help each other out and kind of look out for each other. This is my second year here and I am trying to continue to adjust to the culture and life style here and feel comfortable as much as possible.

"He needs to get better command of his fastball," Tom Bradley, Cheng's former pitching coach said. "To pitch in the Major Leagues, you need to have command of the fastball"

Cheng confirmed that consistency is one of the things they are currently working on together in their side sessions in the pen. Cheng is also working on a few other wrinkles to his game in his side sessions.

"I am working on my change up and on a two seam fastball."

As Cheng progresses through the system, he may be a better option out of the pen with the advanced breaking stuff that he features, however he likes his current role.

"I am hoping that I will progress through the system as a starter." Cheng stated when asked about the possible transition.

Repertoire: Fastball, curveball, changeup.

Fastball: Cheng's fastball is not dominating as he throws it only around 88 MPH. At times his fastball can be pushed near 90 mph, but Cheng must work on controlling his fastball better.

Other Pitches: Cheng features two promising secondary pitches. He has a filthy curveball that has hitters ducking away when they see it, and he throws a good changeup. The left-hander will need to develop his changeup more if he wants to continue pitching as a starter. Right now, talent evaluators have labeled his curveball as a pitch that is ‘near major league ready.' However, is fastball has been inconsistent at times, and his changeup is not real polished yet.

Projection: Most talent evaluators predict Cheng will be most successful as a reliever, but must first show he has command of all his pitches. If Cheng learns to stay in the strike zone, he will have a chance of a successful future.

2007 Outlook: Cheng will spend most of the 2007 season rehabbing his shoulder. Although he could be back by June, you shouldn't expect anything from him this season.

ETA: 2010: Write off 2007 as a recovery year for Cheng. He'll likely come back in full strength to begin 2008 and will then need to speed up his development. His ETA suffered by about a year with this injury

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