Team Lg IP H/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/9 GB% TAv WHIP ERA DRA
CHN MLB 6.0 7.5 3.0 3.0 12.0 33% .289 1.17 7.50 5.82
TEN AA 90.3 7.9 2.4 0.7 8.3 41% .244 1.14 2.99 3.88
IOW AAA 55.0 7.9 2.3 0.8 6.4 55% .225 1.13 1.80 3.09
Year in Review:
Every baseball club the world over would kill for solid pitching depth. Even teams with seemingly great depth can struggle when the injury bug rears its ugly head. For the 2017 Chicago Cubs, pitching depth was certainly an issue, as every member of the original starting day rotation spent time on the disabled list at one point or another. That’s where a player like Jen-Ho Tseng comes into play, because while he’ll never be a top of the line starter, he adds much needed organizational depth that could blossom into rotational depth if he stays on track.
The Taiwanese born right-hander didn’t see much time with the big league club in 2017. He was limited to one spot start and one relief appearance. To be honest, there wasn’t much to draw from those two starts. Obviously, the sample size was small, but Tseng didn’t light Cubs fandom on fire in either of his appearances. However, in the second appearance, that’s exactly what one wanted from Tseng and hopefully what he can bring to the rotation for years to come.
The bulk of Tseng’s 2017 was spent between the AA Tennessee Smokies and AAA Iowa Cubs. It was in those places that he was able to pitch his way to being named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He did this through a steady and calm approach. Nothing eye-popping stats-wise or makeup wise, but that was made up for by a fairly unrelenting adherence to consistency. His H/9 was 7.9 at both stops in the minor league system, while his BB/9 and HR/9 only deviated by .1 between the Smokies and Iowa Cubs.
Where he wasn’t consistent, Tseng improved in his jump up the system. An already adequate DRA of 3.88 with the Smokies dropped nearly 80 points to a 3.09 with Iowa. The same was true of the poised righty’s ERA, which improved dramatically from 2.99 at the Double-A level to a 1.80 mark in Triple-A. Even his TAv showed improvement, some .19 points of improvement after his jump up a minor league level. Nearly across the board, Tseng improved in his move from Tennessee to Iowa.
Sadly, most will remember 2017 Tseng as the kid who was brought up for a late September game and looked overmatched by the moment and the skill at the big league level. What people should look to for an accurate summary of Tseng’s 2017 is his relief appearance against the rival St. Louis Cardinals. That game was as consistent an approach as one could find from Tseng. In three innings of work he pumped the zone with a mixture of his pitches for strikes. He steadily went at hitters, and never strayed from his approach. Tseng looked like a professional, like the very model of a middle of the rotation starter.
The middle to end of the rotation is most likely where the experienced 22-year-old will end up. His stuff is the main reason why. Every prospect writeup I’ve read on Tseng describes the stuff as solid. Watching most of his starts last year, my takeaway was much the same. However, there is an x-factor with Tseng, and that is his experience. He’s been groomed for what Major League Baseball has to offer since he suited up for the Taiwan national team as an 18-year-old. Whether it was his time with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans or his last appearance with the Cubs in 2017, Tseng shows a maturity and ability to adapt to the situation at hand.
2018 may not begin with the four-pitch righty on the Cubs opening day roster. But don’t be surprised if it does, or if he gets quickly called and sticks around for quite a while as a solid 3-5 starter.
Lead photo courtesy Kamil Krzaczynski—USA Today Sports