Yu-Cheng Chang did not crack my Top 100 Mid-Season Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings and I haven’t mentioned him in any of my Weekly Prospect Rundowns. That is how much of a sleeper he is. Even the guy writing this sleeper article (me) is sleeping on him. But 20-year-old shortstops with a .267/.336/.488 triple-slash, to go along with 10 homers and 9 steals in High-A, do not get slept on for long. So it’s time to dig deeper and see what Chang is all about.
Chang was one of the top Asian amateur free agents in 2013, signing with the Cleveland Indians for $500,000. He immediately proceeded to rip up Rookie-Ball in his professional debut in 2014, slashing .346/.420/.566 with 6 homers and 6 steals in 42 games. Last season was a different story, though, and it completely halted any and all hype that he built up from the year before. Chang slashed .232/.293/.361, with 9 homers, 5 steals, and a 103/27 K/BB in 105 games at Single-A. Combine the poor numbers with the fact that he didn’t really have a standout tool, and everyone was rightfully down on him coming into this season. But as you know from my opener, he has turned things around this year, and we are starting to see the player he is going to become.
Chang has quick bat speed and a level swing that allows him to hit the ball with authority to all fields. He will never be a true power hitter, but I can see him perennially hitting in the mid-teens. Along with his power, he has improved his K rate by 2.3% (21% on the season) and his BB rate by 3.4% (9.5%). His speed grades out as above average, so he should steal his fair share of bases, as well. The biggest downside is that he is likely to be moved off SS, especially if he stays with Cleveland (hello, Francisco Lindor), with 2B, 3B, and CF all possibilities down the line.
I don’t think Chang will ever become a star, but he can end up being a very solid 5-category producer at a valuable position. I will give him a prime projection of 84/16/78/.271/12. You can likely pick him up now for nothing, even in deep leagues, but once he reaches Double-A and continues to hit well, it might not be that easy.
By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)