Yu-Cheng Chang was signed by the Cleveland Indians out of Taiwan back in 2013. The 22-year-old shortstop stands 6’1″ and weighs 175 pounds. He bats right-handed and spent all of 2017 at Double-A Akron. He was added to the Tribe’s 40-man roster this past spring, avoiding the Rule 5 Draft. Chang was also one of the key pieces to the failed Jonathan Lucroy trade, which also included top catching prospect, Francisco Mejia.
Strengths and Weaknesses
On paper, Yu-Cheng Chang is probably not the prospect that jumps out the most at the casual fan. He hit just .220 in 2017 with a .312 on-base percentage. Hardly numbers one would expect from a top prospect at Double-A. However, Chang did hit 24 home runs, the most of any shortstop in the minors last season. Quite impressive for a 22-year-old at Double-A, especially considering Akron’s Canal Park isn’t known as a hitter’s park at all.
2017 marked the third time in four seasons that Chang had an ISO over .200. In addition to the power display, Chang also increased his walk rate, eclipsing the 10-percent mark for the first time in his career. While the batting average kept his on-base percentage in check, he did have a surprisingly low batting average on balls in play (BABIP), so perhaps with a little more luck, he can increase those numbers.
He has had some issues with strikeouts and his rate did rise to 26-percent in 2017. That’s not a prohibitive number by any stretch but not something he wants to see increase any further, even if the power and walks continue to increase as well.
Chang shows some good speed as well, swiping 11 bases for the second straight year. Defensively he’s been very solid/average at shortstop and has shown the potential to stick there long term. He does have a good arm so a move to third base is possible or even the outfield or second base. The bat plays anywhere though his value would take a hit if he moves off short.
Where does he go from here?
Chang has been slowly moving up prospect lists the last couple years. He’s higher on our list than most others though Fangraphs did recently rank him as the 80th best prospect in their KATOH rankings. The power/speed combination at shortstop is something one just doesn’t see that often. He’s not Carlos Correa by any stretch but there’s enough raw power in that swing to dream on and a guy that I felt could have been top three in the system this year. He has true star potential.
There was some thought Chang could go to Triple-A Columbus after posting solid offensive numbers at Double-A last year; however, he was recently optioned to Akron along with fellow shortstop prospect Willi Castro. The two of them at the same level, plus the presence of some guy named Francisco Lindor at the big league level likely means Chang will see more time at third base this season than he’s ever seen before. He last appeared in a minor league game at the position in 2014 though has seen time there in Spring Training games with the Tribe.
With the presence of Lindor and Jose Ramirez, there’s always been the thought of Chang at third base (or maybe the outfield) but there’s also a very strong possibility of a trade, especially if the Indians believe in Yandy Diaz at third base. Already traded once, his value as a top shortstop prospect could be higher to another club than to the Tribe. However, 25 home run potential does play anywhere and the Cleveland Indians would be wise to hold on to Chang, that is, barring a blockbuster trade…