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taiwan flagDuring last Summer’s international spend-fest, the Chicago Cubs signed 18-year-old Taiwanese righty Jen-Ho Tseng for $1.625 million. The now 19-year-old was expected to be among the top prospects in the international class, given that he was already pitching in international competitions, and sported a mid-90s fastball with a couple plus secondary pitches. But then his velocity fell, he looked bad in the World Baseball Classic, and he wound up not even being on some of the top prospect lists coming into last year’s signing period.

The Cubs stuck with him, however, and his stuff ticked back up in June and July, just before he signed. Apparently that has carried forward, because crews from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus were both in Mesa this weekend observing prospects, and they seemed to focus on one arm they saw: Tseng.

First, here’s a full scouting report from Ben Badler, including video (look at that curveball to the first batt, man! That’s literal knee-buckling right there). It’s a great read, and among Badler’s thoughts:

Right now, Tseng appears to be back on track. Pitching for three innings on Sunday against a travel team of Dominican amateur players from the International Prospect League, Tseng threw 89-93 mph, mostly in the higher end of that range for the first two innings. He mixed in an above-average curveball that mostly registered at 75, though he added and subtracted with the pitch. He threw plenty of strikes with his curveball, which had good depth and late, sharp bite. He buckled the knees of back-to-back hitters for strikeouts at one point, and while the hitters he’s facing were mostly 15- and 16-year-old boys, the fastball and curveball were quality pitches regardless of who he was facing.

Badler concludes by saying that Tseng has the mix of pitches and stuff to be a future big league pitcher. That may not sound like much, but we’re talking about a 19-year-old who hasn’t yet pitched in a stateside league. That praise is plenty.

And then there’s the report from Baseball Prospectus’s Mark Anderson, who says in part:

Tseng surprised over the weekend with an extremely impressive three-inning stint against the International Prospect League squad in Mesa. Tseng came out pumping 91-92 mph fastballs with precision, touching 94 in his first inning of work. He moved the ball from side to side with ease, elevated when he wanted to, and generally worked the knees against overmatched young hitters. His changeup was firm on the couple of occasions he mixed it in, thrown in the 81-83 mph range, all the while showing late sink reminiscent of a quality splitter. The arm speed and slot are identical to the fastball and you can see at least a plus future for the pitch. Tseng’s curveball stole the show as the outing extended, transforming from a loopier breaking ball that was easily spotted out of the hand to a tight hammer breaker that looked the part of yet another future plus secondary pitch.

Anderson guesses that Tseng could handle full-season ball already, which means he could start out in Kane County’s rotation. That’s impressive, again, for a 19-year-old with no significant stateside experience.

Check out some of the thoughts from folks in attendance as they were watching Tseng, which gives you an even better sense of how good he looked:

In a discussion chain involving Sahadev Sharma, Parks went on to say that he also thinks Tseng looks like a full-season arm at this point (a ceiling of a 2/3 – that’s high praise), and would now rank Tseng in the Cubs’ top ten prospects. Think about that. That puts Tseng right up there with the top arms in the Cubs’ system, and immediately behind Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards.

Schwing.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Yet more evidence that Theo, Jed and Jason kinda sorta know what the heck they are doing. The transformation to the level of talent in this system in two years time is mind blowing.

  • SenorGato

    On Thursday or Friday last week I called Tseng “the difference” in what made the IFA class this year so special. There was no clear cut top arm in the pool and he had the strongest pedigree of anyone along with the polish and stuff. The best part is that Mejia would be in the pool of guys (including Perez and someone else I’m forgetting) right below Tseng.

    Anyway, so I was happy to see this weekend that he is definitely getting noticed.

    Beyond not landing Leonardo Molina, who IMO was really hurt by not being eligible on 7/2 and could have been the #1 guy over JImenez, I “get” why the Cubs’ IFA haul was such a big deal to the people who are into that stuff. I really like Torres, and it appears observers do too.

    • SenorGato

      *last year, not this year

    • Jon

      I’d like to see what Tseng can do against batters that have reached puberty.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        Have you ever had a positive thought in your life?? The praise wasn’t coming off of the results he got, but rather off of the stuff that he showed

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Given that that very criticism was addressed by the experts who were observing him (it wasn’t about the results, it was about the stuff – didn’t matter who was at the plate), and given that it’s laid out pretty plainly in this post, you’re just being an asshole. Getting pretty tired of it, Jon.

        • NorthSideIrish

          +1

          • Ballgame17

            +1

        • ClevelandCubsFan

          Reedeen iz hahrd.

        • MattyNomad

          WINNING

        • miggy80

          +2

        • C. Steadman

          +3

        • Danny Ballgame

          Dude has to be a closet Sox fan

          • Khross

            lol….

        • Khross

          + Infinity and Beyond(™)

        • Cizzle

          +4

        • farmerjon

          +5

        • Lou Brown

          +5

        • Wilburthefirst

          As there are two +5’s I’ll go +7 …

        • D.G.Lang

          +10

        • Jason P

          +11

        • Chef Brian

          +10

        • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

          +20 sorry I missed this

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        Good one Jon!

      • Cizzle

        Jon, had you not reached puberty by 16? That explains so much.

        • Funn Dave

          I laughed.

      • Kyle

        He’s a pitching prospect. How he does against hitters at this age is basically irrelevant. He just needs to show the raw stuff and not get hurt.

        • SenorGato

          Yep. Everything else is gravy.

  • MattyNomad

    After all this prospect lovin’ the Cubs farm has been getting, its nice to finally see an arm instead of another position player. Now all we need is some swooning comments about one of our catchers and i’ll be tickled pink.

  • ThatCubsFan21

    Any possibility Tseng developing into an ace? I mean I know he’s still only 19, so its hard to accurately predict his ceiling but is there any chance he has at becoming a future ace?

    If not, is there any prospects in the cubs system with a potential ace ceiling? Even one that Is far fetched? Im just wondering if there’s a chance of the Cubs having a home grown ace in their system that we can try to keep an eye on through the years. I mean I’ve heard some potential behind Duane Underwood. But he, too, is far out. But it does give hope for future home grown impact arms that we dont have to unload prospects for

    • BWA

      Edwards is probably our best bet at getting a true ace (typically top 15 pitchers or so in baseball). His durability is an issue, but his numbers are insane. If he can pitch deep into ballgames he could be a true #1. Our next best bet is probably anyone in the draft. Theres probably only 5 prospects who are projected to be true aces.

  • Isaac

    None of it really tripped my trigger until Parks said he’d be in our top 10…that is stupid exciting praise. Pretty unreal.

    • Danny Ballgame

      Seriously nice pickup by the FO

    • DarthHater

      Speaking of “out top 10,” WHEN DO WE GET OUR ANNUAL PROSPECT RANKING, LUKE? ;-)

      • DarthHater

        *our* (sheesh)

      • Danny Ballgame

        Can’t wait for it. Need more prospect porn

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        That series is in the works.

        Unfortunately I ran into a major delay when a sprinkler went off on my condo yesterday afternoon, so right now I’m basically living out of a hotel. That’s going to slow things down.

        I still intend to get the positional depth overviews and the Top 40 out by the real Opening Day (not the Australian one). We’ll see.

        • Danny Ballgame

          Thank you and stay dry my friend

        • Funn Dave

          That blows. Good luck getting all your shit straightened out (and dried).

        • DarthHater

          Ick. Sorry to hear about your difficulties. We only pester you because we appreciate your work so much.

    • Cizzle

      I was thinking halfway through the article where he would be projected to go in the 2015 draft as a 19 yo HS arm. Based upon the “top 10″ projection, would he be comparable to Zastryzny? End of the 1st, top of the 2nd round? If so, that’s a very impressive IFA pickup.

  • C. Steadman

    I’m loving the fact that he’s getting praises on more than just two pitches…having three quality “future plus” pitches already at age 19 is really exciting.

    • C. Steadman

      Mark Anderson’s snippet was my favorite as well as this from Josh Norris’ tweet “Up to 94 with two very good secondaries”….I’m a fan of a 19yr old showing a good arsenal already

  • Dales Fired Ear

    I’m worried that my new laptop is going to get viruses from watching all this prospect porn.

    • Danny Ballgame

      A little tightness in the ole throwin arm perhaps

      • Dales Fired Ear

        Hahaha

    • NorthSideIrish

      Just don’t loan your computer to Carlos Martinez…

    • Funn Dave

      ikr

  • Funn Dave

    Funny to see a Taiwanese pitcher pitching to Dominican batters followed by a big Baseball America logo in the video.

  • Fastball

    I’m a little cautious about this reporting on Tseng. It’s one thing to have great stuff and command of those pitches. It’s pretty easy to be super confident on the mound when you facing 16 year olds. Let’s see how confident he is in being able to make those pitches against guys 19 – 22 years old who have a lot more experience. He may very well be so confident in himself and his stuff that he doesn’t experience any pucker factor on the mound. The true test will be facing guys that are more advanced and can he make the same pitches to those guys especially when he has runners on base etc. I believe he has great stuff. Lot’s of kids have great stuff until their nerves start getting a little frayed or that get knocked around a little bit. Then it can all go out the window in a hurry. That’s part of the maturation process for a young pitcher. Some never learn to handle the pressure. I think a lot of let’s see what happens next is in order with this kid. I am fully a big supporter but the proof is in what he shows against tougher competition. At this point its like taking a college sophomore and having him pitch agaisnt a top notch Jr. Varisty all star team.

    • C. Steadman

      ” and while the hitters he’s facing were mostly 15- and 16-year-old boys, the fastball and curveball were quality pitches regardless of who he was facing”-Ben Badler

      The prospect gurus took in consideration that he was facing guys 3-4 years his junior.

      • Jon

        And Rebuilding’s point is that the fact these were 15-16 years old, diminishes this a bit. It’s essentially a glorified mound session. It’s easy to have confidence in all your pitches when you know they probably won’t get hit.

        • gocatsgo2003

          So now you put on your pessmistic pseudo-psychologist hat? The entire point is that his stuff stood on its own regardless of the batters at the plate AND that the guys reporting on his performance made it clear that was the case.

        • C. Steadman

          “the fastball and curveball were quality pitches regardless of who he was facing”

          • Jon

            Can these pitches be executed in an actual game, against grown men? It’s a bit more than “ignore the competition, the stuff is there…”

            • gocatsgo2003

              Except that each and every one of the actual experts actually in attendance indicated that the stuff would stand on its own regardless of compeition. You’re just essentially proving Brett’s point that you seem to be taking the contrarian point of view just to take the contrarian point of view.

            • JCubs79

              Good god man. This isn’t that hard to understand. The evaluation is based off of his stuff, not the results of his 3 innings of work in a MiLB ST game.

              Read the tweets. All our reports of his FB velocity, change-up velocity, curveball velocity, how each of the pitches moved, how they had late life, etc.

              • Jon

                Pitchers are evaluated on their “stuff” based on in game situations. Not side sessions, pickup games against kids etc. If he can execute this stuff when he is in KC, then I’ll be excited. Until then, it’s just “fluff”, “grain of salt” type stuff

                • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                  If a guy threw 91-94 with a plus changeup and plus breaking ball in a bullpen, teams would be interested. Just look no further than the story of how CJ Edwards was signed

                • JCubs79

                  That’s just not true at all.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  Pitchers are evaluated on their stuff in any situation. We don’t frown on high school pitchers because they are showing their stuff in high school games. They are still showing stuff, and stuff is stuff.

                  They are also evaluated on their results in real game situations, but that is an entirely separate avenue from stuff (and that is why you sometimes see players referred to as ‘not pitching up to their stuff’ or ‘their stuff don’t support their results’ etc.).

                  • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                    Exactly, I don’t really know much about this Dominican team, but for all intents and purposes, they are a high school team (and are probably more talented than most, if not all high schools teams in the US)

                    • half_full_beer_mug

                      Yeah but for intensive purposes his stuff was great so it makes everything else a mute point.

                • Norm

                  So Jon, why did B-Pro say he would be a Top 10 Cubs prospect if they didn’t evaluate him against those kids? What are they basing it off of?

        • Norm

          You can put James McDonald against 15 and 16 year olds and it’s not going to change the reports on his stuff and potential.
          You either have it or you don’t. According to this report, he has it.

  • Lou Brown

    Placing him in the Cubs top 10 is pretty strong praise. It would basically be Edwards, Johnson, and him. That’s a strong statement by Parks, and it sounds like the statement was based on stuff and not on results (given the competition).

  • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

    Well, I kinda locked on to this kid back in July: http://www.bleachernation.com/2013/07/01/obsessive-matt-garza-trade-watch-move-coming-soon-orioles-padres-giants-rockies-more/comment-page-2/#comment-332159

    “Yu Darvishy – minus the breaking balls, for now, 90+ FB) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5SlG_SUurI

    Glad to see he’s progressing nicely.

    • SenorGato

      Ah, Diplan was the name I forgot.

  • ssckelley

    I’m telling ya this will be the year of the pitchers in the Cubs minor leagues. Tseng is just the start, I think we will see several pitchers emerging as good prospects.

    • Darth Ivy

      (Breathe, darth ivy. Breathe)

  • Fastball

    I was a pretty good pitcher back in the day. At 53 I coach an AAU team and even though I am old school as hell I can still pitch batting practice to my boys and they can’t hit me if I don’t want them too. So if this 19 year old buckles the 16 year olds knees and gets bumped into the Cubs top 10. I might have to consider coming out of a long retirement. :) Cause I can still make 16 -17 years look bad. Well at least last year I was still able too. I haven’t started outdoor practices just yet so I may have lost it over the winter.

    • mjhurdle

      If you can touch 94 and have 2 secondary pitches that scouts say could be ‘plus’ pitches in the MLB, then yes, come out of retirement.
      Otherwise, keep confusing those highschoolers with the 42 mph knuckler. :)

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      He wasn’t evaluated based on the results, he was evaluated based on the stuff itself, why is this so hard to understand??

    • Featherstone

      Velocity and movement (i.e. stuff) is independent of whose in the batter’s box whether its a 16 year old teen or Miguel Cabrera. Reading comprehension must be something you lost over the winter as well.

    • DarthHater

      Wow, I had almost forgotten that you used to be a pitcher. Thanks for the reminder.

      • Boogens

        Nicely played. That’s really funny – I’m just sitting at my desk laughing to myself.

    • jp3

      Sure uncle Rico, I bet you can throw a football over them mountains

  • Darth Ivy

    I wonder how his stuff compares to highschool kids going into the draft this year. Obviously he isn’t like the kid throwing 100 (kolek?), but would he be a first rounder? That’s always the first thing I think about when it comes to international guys, where would they have gone in the draft

    • Lou Brown

      I am still dreaming on Kolek, 6’5 18 year old, 100+ fastball with movement, avg slider and curve, developing change up. He has a long way to go, but if he can develop those secondaries, he could really be something.

  • Cheese Chad

    The umpire looked to be getting a little “leslie nielsen, naked gun” towards the end there. That last pitch was up to his neck and he was too eager to call strike 3! The crowd must have been going wild!

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Is there any more projection in Tseng’s velocity? He’s only 19 but still a pretty filled out kid for his age. Any chance for a couple more ticks to his velocity?

  • Matt

    This is very exciting news. At the same time, the age of the people he was pitching against does bring a bit of a guarded optimism, still though, hearing that he looked as good as he did is very exciting, just the whole comments about his “stuff”. That’s the encouraging part. Still though, like I said, it’s a guarded optimism, but these scouts know what they’re talking about, so I’m pretty excited about it. I agree with whoever it was that said that it was the top 10 comment that really shocked me. I was thinking maybe top 10 pitcher in the system (still so early in his career and time with the Cubs), but a top 10 prospect in the entire system? That’s great to hear.

  • bushybrows74

    Brett,

    You forgot to use quotes when calling Jon as asshole. That counts as name calling:(

    Sounds like our pitcher looked good in the equivalent of a bullpen session. Top ten prospect!

  • Fastball

    LOL

  • Chef Brian

    Schwing indeed!

    • DarthHater

      This post just made me think. I have a file on my work computer containing notes about a book by an author named Schwing. The file is also named Schwing. I suppose someone looking at my directory could get the wrong idea…

  • JeffR

    I was kind of hoping we’d hear a little something about Rob Zastryzny today. Scouts talked about seeing him throw but never reported anything. Must not have been too impressive.

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