November 2011

Aces boss Phil Dale holds the wild cards in the ABL

Managers Phil Dale and Kevin Boles exchange line-up cards prior to the Australian Baseball League Melbourne Aces/Sydney Blue Sox game(photo courtesy of Joe Vella/SMP Images/ABL)

In his second year as boss for the Melbourne Aces, manager Phil Dale is no newcomer to the game. Already heralded as a legendary Australian baseball icon for being the first Aussie ever to be awarded a full-ride scholarship to play ball in the U.S., Dale has just begun to create a new chapter in his own legacy. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Reds in 1985, he pitched his way up the minor leagues for four seasons but never made it to the Bigs as a player. However, the Major League Baseball (MLB) curse did not stop the Melbourne native from becoming a hero for the Australian national team and a MVP of the Australian Baseball League (ABL) in its infancy and pre-MLB affiliation days.

Australia Coach Phil Dale

Drawing from his own experience as a professional minor league player, Dale’s source of inspiration was a higher calling to mentor his fellow aspiring countrymen to the ranks of baseball’s elite. He began his coaching career in the minor leagues for the Reds and Atlanta Braves before repatriating back to Australia, where he would work with Aussie’s finest for the nation’s biggest feat ever in the 2004 Athens Olympics. In just one of his many accolades of coaching greatness, Dale led the Australian national team to a monumental silver medal honor after a stunning 1-0 upset over heavily favored Japan.

Ex-MLB lefty Travis Blackley returns to Aces in 2012

Wild Card #1: Prior to Travis Blackley signing to Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) KIA Tigers in December 2010, the 29-year-old Australian national team hurler pitched in the New York Mets and Oakland A’s-affiliated minor leagues. Snagged by the Seattle Mariners as an amateur free agent in 2000, Blackley made his Major Baseball League debut on July 1, 2004. An injury setback prohibited him from returning to MLB action until 2007 with the San Francisco Giants. Blackley is currently in great shape.

Recently signed LA Dodgers pitcher Shane Lindsay (photo courtesy of Joe Vella / SMP Images / ABL)

Wild Card #2: Shane Lindsay made his Major League Baseball pitching debut on September 2nd against the 2011 AL Central Division Champion Detroit Tigers. The Aces manager praised Lindsay for his strength and his boost to the team. “He’s what you call a power arm,” said Dale. “It’s like a Brett Lee in bowling. He’s one of the fast bowlers, but what the baseballers call power pitchers.” The 26-year-old express train will be joining fellow Aussie MLB success story Trent Oeltjen at 2012 Dodgers Spring Camp.

17-year-old Aussie phenomenon Daniel McGrath (photo courtesy of Joe Vella / SMP images / ABL)

Wild Card #3: Making his debut on Melbourne’s roster as a 16-year-old, Doncaster native pitcher Daniel McGrath has a Big League decision in 2012. Tussling between following his manager’s footsteps by attending an American University or signing a very lucrative professional contract, the six-foot-three prospect is going abroad. Aces skipper and long-time supervisor of the Atlanta Braves Australian and Asian scouting department, Phil Dale knows he has been dealt something special with lefty Daniel McGrath.

ABL Player of the Week (Round 3) Nic Ungs (B. Southall/SMP Images)

Wild Card #4: Named as one of the ABL Players of the Week for round three action, Dubuque, Iowa’s Nic Ungs delivered possibly the best pitching performance in the recently reorganized league’s history against the Brisbane Bandits on November 20th. Coming within two strikes and inches away from throwing the first ever perfect game in ABL history, Ungs now wishes that he could get the pitch back that Brisbane’s Brad Dutton drilled just out of Aces first baseman Justin Huber’s grasp to end his no-hit bid. Postgame the 32-year-old Midwesterner commented, “The perfect game doesn’t come up that often, I’ve thrown a no-hitter before, but it’s just one of those things. Of course I’d like to have the pitch back.” With the four wild card pitchers working in tandem in January, Phil Dale’s Melbourne Aces may indeed be the team that will dethrone defending champions Perth Heat for the 2011-12 ABL Championship title. Ungs said, “It’s going to be great with the guys…to build the team chemistry that we are going to need down the stretch.”

Big Dog Hayden Beard: 2011 Cal League Champ Storm Pitcher herds Canberra Cavalry to Victory

Known affectionately by his teammates and coaches as “the Big Dog”, the Australia native Hayden Beard can be a beast to hit against when pitching on the mound. Just ask the recently crowned 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who whiffed and became yet another strike out victim to the twenty-six-year-old right-handed flamethrower in a minor league rehab assignment game. Out of professional baseball for nearly three years, San Diego Padres prospect Hayden Beard is digging ‘Down Under’ in the ABL.

2011 California League Champion Lake Elsinore Storm reliever Hayden Beard

Pitching out of the bullpen as a late inning reliever for the California League Lake Elsinore Storm–a Single-A Advanced minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres–during the past two seasons, Beard appeared in a total of 61 games and averaged more than one strikeout per inning. Already surpassing his strikeout totals as a reliever in last year’s inaugural season for the reorganized Australian Baseball League (ABL), the Canberra-born player was relent-less to Melbourne Aces batters in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader at home field Narrabundah Ballpark. Assuming a new role in the starting rotation, the feisty pitcher surrendered just two hits in seven scoreless innings and struck out seven to get his first victory for the 2011-12 Canberra Cavalry season.

Canberra's Hayden Beard and Steve Kent

Signed over six years ago with the New York Mets out of the Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program, the six-foot-one Beard was recently selected to represent Team Australia as the closer in the 2011 World Cup competition alongside Cavalry lefty pitching teammate Steve Kent–who had been working his way to the Bigs through an endless myriad of hoops and hurdles as an Atlanta Braves minor leaguer for the past six seasons until recently–and fellow Aussie pitcher Chris Oxspring–who signed with the Padres in 2000, pitched for the 2001-02 Lake Elsinore Storm, received a Silver Medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, made his MLB debut for San Diego in 2005 and was voted as 2010-11 ABL Pitcher of the Year runner-up throwing for the Sydney Blue Sox.

All paths lead to Big Dog Hayden Beard's future home at San Diego's legendary PETCO Park

After a three-year hiatus due to injuries in his pitching career, “the Big Dog” Hayden Beard is following the scent of Major League Baseball leading to San Diego’s legendary PETCO Park. With Australian twenty-three-year-old Josh Spence making his successful pitching MLB debut for the Padres this past season (3-1, 1.71 ERA), the impetus for San Diego to have two Aussie imports concurrently on the same roster to equal the Minnesota Twins current record with Luke Hughes and Liam Hendriks is now more compelling than ever. It won’t be long before “Big Dog” pitcher Hayden Beard joins the ranks of baseball’s elite in a Padres uniform as the path across the Pacific to America’s Finest City has never been clearer.

Former NYY World Series reliever Graeme Lloyd coaches Australian Baseball League’s Best: HEAT

Working with Perth Heat pitchers and mentoring young players to develop their full potential, Australian-born Graeme Lloyd is more than qualified to teach some of baseball’s up-and-coming prospects about competing successfully with the game’s elite. Possessing two World Series rings for his role as a clutch reliever for the MLB Champion New York Yankees in 1996 and 1998 as well as a Silver Medal with the Aussie national team in the 2004 Olympics, Graeme Lloyd is a national hero. After a 1-0 shutout of heavily favored Japan in the semifinal round in the Athens games, Australia manager David Nilsson–who was a catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1992 to 1999–described the win as “the best moment in Australian baseball,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

In his illustrious MLB career which spanned ten years as a pitcher for various clubs including the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals, Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins and New York Mets, the fourth native Australian to make it to the Bigs was used primarily as a matchup lefty– sometimes referred to as LOOGY (lefty one out only guy)–reliever. Strategically inserted late in a very close contested game against opponent’s star left-handed hitter(s), Lloyd thrived in his specialist role for the 1998 New York Yankees with a career-best 1.67 ERA. Facing Lloyd’s three-quarter delivery and sweeping breaking ball, slugger Ken Griffey Jr. had just one hit in nine career at-bats. In his prime years as one of MLB’s most reliable relievers, the six-foot-eight stopper’s repertoire of wicked sinking 90 MPH fastballs, signature sliders and palmballs absolutely stymied and demoralized batters.

Warwick Saupold (SCOTT POWICK SMP IMAGES/ABL)

Perth Heat pitching coach Graeme Lloyd’s first successful transformation is Warwick Saupold. Coming back from last year’s 3-2 record and 5.52 ERA in the Australia Baseball League (ABL), the 21-year-old Perth native and offseason concrete pourer has dished out the 2011-12 league’s lowest ERA (0.45) in three starts and 20 innings pitched. Among all starting pitchers for the Heat, Saupold leads the team with 11 strikeouts. Recently voted ABL Player of the Week Round 3 pitching award runner-up alongside Heat teammate Daniel Schmidt, Saupold is on the rebound to leave the trowel in the cement and add another historical moment in Australian baseball history under Graeme Lloyd’s watchful eye.

Daniel Schmidt (SMP IMAGES/ABL)

Daniel Schmidt was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies a few years ago but had three surgeries which prohibited him from ever pitching for the world-class Major League Baseball organization. As last season’s number one pitcher for Perth, the 23-year-old lefty posted a commanding 6-3 record with a 2.97 ERA to lead the Heat to a championship title and secure a third place finish behind Blue Sox David Welch and Chris Oxspring for 2010-11 ABL Pitcher of the Year. Currently 2-0 with a 3.63 ERA and 10 strike outs in 17+ innings of work, Schmidt is on par for an equally sensational 2011-12 season. With Major League Baseball veteran pitcher Graeme Lloyd providing invaluable coaching and direction for Daniel Schmidt’s re-emergence into the international limelight, it won’t be long before this Aussie finds himself signed by another MLB franchise. The future is looking bright for the defending champion Perth Heat and their slew of scorching prospects.

Food for thought: Pitcher Alex Maestri–Italy’s first export to MLB imported by ABL’s Brisbane Bandits

When asked about preparations for his Italian squad in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, the best hitting catcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history and Team Italy hitting coach Mike Piazza replied, “We’ll have the best food.” All joking aside, Pizza commented: “You’ve got talent in Italy, think of Alex Maestri and Alex Liddi… To help talented kids you need to get them to play more games. Look at me, I didn’t really improve until I was given the possibility to play every day.”

The 26-year-old Alex Maestri made MLB history as the first Italian born pitcher to be signed by a major league club–the Chicago Cubs–in 2006. Three years later another historical milestone in baseball would take place when the Italian prospect would finally compete on the Major League level. Thinking that it was yet another day on the bench or perhaps a really good April Fools prank, April 1, 2009 would go down as a very Big League day for Alessandro Maestri. Upon reporting to a Cubs Spring Training game in Phoenix against the Oakland Athletics, Maestri was informed that he would making his first preseason Major League pitching debut, which many would consider to have been “textbook”
and as good as it could ever be.

The setting was perfect under a pleasant 71 degree warm Arizona sun for Maestri to take over for Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano and Luis Vizcaino in the fifth inning. Little did Maestri know that he would come face-to-face with some of Major League Baseball’s most feared hitters. His first strike out victim was Orlando Cabrera, who was caught looking at a fastball on the outside corner. Next up with slugger Jason Giambi, who managed to squeak out a single through the hole. Following was Matt Holliday, nicknamed “Big Daddy” for his towering six-foot-four stature and his muscular physique. Maestri dug down deep and mesmerized the intimidating Major League All-Star with a called third strike slider for out number two. The selective Eric Chavez worked the count full before swinging and faltering to Maestri’s wicked slider in the dirt for his third strikeout. Upon returning to the dugout, legendary Cubs skipper Lou Pinella congratulated the young Italian hurler.

As as starter and relief pitcher in the Chicago Cubs minor league system for five seasons, Maestri racked up a 24-17 record with a 3.75 ERA and 19 saves. A two-time minor league All-Star, the right hand throwing pitcher put away hitters with his evasive slider–which was once voted as the best slider thrown by anyone in the entire organization. Representing his native Italy in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC), Maestri dominated hitters. In the 2009 WBC, Maestri held opponents scoreless in his two plus innings–during which he got Miguel Cabrera to ground out on a fielder’s choice and Magglio Ordonez to strike out.

Since joining the Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) this month, Maestri has been brilliant. In his first two ABL victories against the Canberra Calvary and the Sydney Blue Sox, he threw over 10 innings of scoreless ball and struck out 11. Add to that total another 8 K’s he put down on his most recent indecision versus the Melbourne Aces on November 18th, and Maestri has tallied 19 strike outs in just over 17 innings pitched. With the ABL’s fifth lowest ERA (1.56), the five-foot-eleven Italian has dished out almost nothing but zeros across the box scores. Look for Maestri to battle teammate Yohei Yanagawa–Japan’s 2011 Nippon Professional Baseball League Champion Fukuoka Southbank Hawks reliever, who has struck out 20 as a Bandits starter in over 16 innings–and Canberra Cavalry’s Michael McGuire–a six-foot-seven, 240 pound 2008 First-Year Player Draftee by the Cleveland Indians from the University of Delaware and currently a Philadelphia Phillies minor league starting pitcher, who now leads the ABL with 21 strike outs in 13 plus innings of work–to battle it out until the end for the title of 2011-12 ABL Strike Out King.

When the ABL season concludes in late January, Alex Maestri is scheduled to head to O’Flallon, Missouri to pitch for the 2010 Frontier League Champion River City Rascals after being acquired in a trade last month with the Lincoln Saltdogs–2009 American Association of Independent Professional Baseball Champions. Heralded as the premier Italian born baseball champion of Major League Baseball, Maestri has fast become a favorite in the Australian Baseball League’s appetite for imports as a leader of the Brisbane Bandits.

Chinese Professional Baseball League sends out 1997 MLB 1st Rounder Dan Reichert for upset in 2011 Asia Series versus Japan, Australia and Korea

Not only did ESPN Draft Busts columnist David Schoenfield disrespect Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions team-leading 35-year-old starting pitcher Dan Reichert in his 2006 Page 2 article by considering him a Royal flop when ranked #22 in his list of the 100 Worst Draft Picks of All Time, but he added insult to injury when pointing out Kansas City could have opted to choose future all-star slugger Lance Berkman instead of the risky right-handed pitcher Reichert as their first-round pick of the 1997 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft.

KC Royals Dan Reichert in 1999

Analogous to the way America sends it old phones away to China to be recycled in favor of the latest bells and whistles in the world of technological wizardry, MLB literally gave up on the now aging Dan Reichert shortly after making his first start in the Major Leagues against the Milwaukee Brewers on July 16, 1999, when Reichert was yanked out of an agonizing game in which he surrendered seven earned runs and issued four walks in 1.2 innings of work. His last sighting in the MLB was a short-lived stint with the 2003 Toronto Blue Jays. In five seasons as a member of baseball’s elite, Dan Reichert compiled a 21-25 record with a 5.55 ERA and 240 K’s.

Nearly a decade later after leading his Lions to its eighth franchise CPBL Championship title, the reconditioned Chinese Professional Baseball League version of Dan Reichert is a seasoned veteran and mentor for the bright new hopefuls aspiring to attain Big League status. However, the most important task at hand is a strong showing in the 2011 Asia Series which run Friday, November 25 through Tuesday, November 29 in Taiwan’s Taichung City.

A huge underdog in comparison to the heavily favored Fukuoka Softbank Hawks–who were recently crowned champions of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB)–the Uni Lions have an uphill battle ahead of them. Considered the second-most talented league in the world after MLB, the Nippon Professional Baseball League has produced Japanese teams that have always fared best in the international tournament. The NPB teams have won every year, and once again appear to be poised for a repeat win.

Standing in the way of Japanese winning tradition is defending Australian Baseball League (ABL) champion Perth Heat. Marking the first time Australia will be represented in the 2011 Asia Series against countries where baseball is a national obsession, the Perth Heat possess the ABL’s longest active winning streak in history (11-0) and are currently in excellent form.

One of the first teams in the history of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the Samsung Lions played in the KBO’s first game ever in 1982. Runner-up to the inaugural Asia Series Japanese team champion in 2005, the Samsung Lions return to the games as the 2011 Korea Baseball Organization’s pride and joy. By beating defending champion SK Wyverns in five games, the Samsung Lions were proclaimed the Korean Series title champs for the fifth time since the club’s inception. Look for the Samsung Lions to come out of the dugout fighting for victory.

SYDNEY BLUE SOX PLAYING OLD S-KOO-L IN ABL

Mister deejay, rewind and come again…won’t you please play that one more time? In the case of Korean All-Star pitcher Dae-Sung Koo, getting an encore performance this season    in the recently revamped Australian Baseball League (ABL) after being named 2010-11 Reliever of the Year award winner during the league’s inaugural year under the leadership   of ABL Chief Executive Officer Peter Wermuth is enough excitement to drive fans cuc-Koo!

In Saturday’s tenth inning of the doubleheader nightcap game between Koo’s Sydney Blue Sox and scorching undefeated Perth Heat at Blacktown International Sportspark, the famed New York Mets pitching hero–who gained notoriety in the nationally televised Mets/Yankees Subway Series in June 2005 when Black Eyed Peas “My Humps” was blowing up the charts–was sent a gyration to take those dusty old phonograph records off the shelf and replace them with a new record for the longest winning streak in ABL history (ten straight) to the beat of the ipod shuffling Heat.

With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth inning, Blue Sox manager Kevin Boles (also 2011 Double-A Eastern League Boston Red Sox affiliate Portland Sea Dogs manager) opted to call out to the bullpen and bring in Sydney closer Dae-Sung Koo to stop the visiting Heat’s offensive sting. Proving to be a sound defensive strategy, the always dependable reliever successfully Koo-led down Perth’s bats with a low pitch count so that he could once again return in extra innings if necessary. When Sydney could not put up a run in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off victory, it was Koo to the res-Koo in the tenth…or was it?

In the top of the tenth inning, the Blue Sox defense collapsed with two ensuing errors costing the game for losing pitcher Dae-Sung Koo (0-1). The relentless Heat’s Alex Burg, Allan de San Miguel, and Mitch Graham took advantage of the opportunities and delivered clutch base hits to assemble a comfortable 5-2 lead going into the Sydney’s bottom of the inning. The Red Sox answered with one run, but that was not enough as they faltered in   the end 5-3.

One must remember that there are nine players on the field, and everyone counts in the competitive game of baseball. Although Koo is an international superhero and on many different levels the consummate mentor for the slew of talented ABL players aspiring to make their way to Major League Baseball, the 42-year-old legend cannot carry a team. At the end of the day, this was only one game of perhaps several hundred that these up-and-coming baseball prospects will play during the course of their careers. However, the gateway these young hopefuls have chosen to get into MLB via the ABL is undeniably the best path.

ABL CEO Peter Wermuth

Since being appointed the Australian Baseball League’s first Chief Executive Officer in March 2010, Peter Wermuth has led the charge in the triumphant return of professional baseball to Australia and has developed a new chapter in the nation’s rich history of baseball excellence. Prior to assuming his post as CEO of the ABL, Peter was responsible for Business Development at Major League Baseball International. Having a master plan and done the math to make ABL players’ dreams come true faster, Wermuth breaks it down like this: “In the old Australian Baseball League (from 1989 to 1999), 35% of the imports made it to the Big Leagues on average within 18 months of playing in the ABL. Also, signing talent out of Australia is the best bet a Major League Club can make. While of the overall Minor League population only 3% eventually make it to the Bigs, almost 10% of Australians signed do (31 Australians in the Majors out of about 330 ever signed).” History often repeats itself, and the recent Minnesota Twins signing of Aussie Brendan Wise to join the same MLB organization as his Perth Heat teammates Luke Hughes and Liam Hendriks is living proof. Look for more Big League dreams to come true in the exciting and emerging world of the Australian Baseball League. Stay tuned…many more records to come!!! To learn more about the ABL, please visit http://web.theabl.com.auMy Zimbio
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Ex-Dodgers/Mets Chin-lung Hu: Takes a Breather from MLB to Bite in Australian Baseball League

Adelaide Bite stars James Jones, Chin-lung Hu, Denny Almonte, Tom Brice and Jandy Sena

At Coopers Stadium against the visiting Canberra Cavalry this past weekend, it was all about Chin-lung Hu–leadoff hitter and shortstop for the Adelaide Bite in the Australian Baseball League (ABL). Although there may have been a sour taste left in the mouths of Bite fans following Sunday’s 9-5 loss, one could not forget Hu’s team best 3-for-5 performance–including two runs batted in and one run scored. Never mind that Chin-lung Hu had been instrumental in the Bite’s victories the two prior nights against Canberra. Whether it be Saturday’s two-run triple in the bottom of the second inning which set up a 3-2 victory or Friday’s defensive excellence turning a pivotal double play late in the game with runners on the corners to stop the Calvary’s charge and seal up the win for Adelaide, Chin-lung Hu is now the ABL’s renaissance man.

Other than co-sharing his claim to fame for having MLB’s shortest last name in baseball history, Chin-lung Hu is best known (or rather unknown) as a bench player. Baseball fans today still ask the burning question: “Who is Hu?” Being in the shadow of 2011 MLB National League Batting Champion Mets shortstop Jose Reyes or playing back up to former Dodger and shortstop for the 2011 MLB World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals Rafael Furcal did not help his cause either. Chin-lung Hu appeared to always be at the wrong place at the wrong time and never got the time of day in the major leagues.

The Taiwanese-born Hu began his career in the Dodgers minor leagues in 2003 as a member of the Advance Rookie minor league Ogden Raptors. In 2004, he played for both the defunct Columbus Catfish and the Vero Beach Dodgers (now the Devil Rays). He remained in Vero Beach for the 2005 season and later moved on to the Jacksonville Suns in the Double-A Southern League. Things appeared to be progressing for Hu as the international baseball circle limelight shined on Hu for a brief period while a member of Chinese Taipei national team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Upon his return to America, he was promoted to the Triple-A Las Vegas 51′s and then later made his 2007 Major League Debut in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform. Hu continued his elusive ways by playing hide-and-seek for another three years of multiple visits between Albuquerque with the Triple-A Isotopes and LA’s Chavez Ravine. Following the conclusion of the 2010 Dodgers season, Hu was traded to the New York Mets.

Enter the ABL to save Chin-lung Hu from international anonymity. Backed by Major League Baseball and the Australian Baseball Federation, the ABL is no stranger to world-class Asian baseball talent. In its inaugural season last year, the ABL hosted twelve Japanese players including big leaguers Itaru Hashimoto, Yoshiyuki Kamei and Norihito Kaneto with the Melbourne Aces, and Shuhei Fukuda and Hiroki Yamada with the Brisbane Bandits. Korean catcher Sung-Woo Jang, infielder Kyu-Hyun Moon and outfielder Seung-Hwa Lee thrilled fans while playing for the Canberra Cavalry. Perhaps most notable Korean player was Sydney Blue Sox pitcher Dae-Sung Koo, who won the League’s Reliever of the Year award after a brilliant season on the mound. With over three times as many players with Major League Baseball contracts participating than last season and a new influx of athletes from the world’s top baseball leagues, there has been vast improvement in the 2011-12 ABL level of play. Now is the time for Chin-lung Hu to step out of the darkness and into the light as an all-star starting shortstop for the ABL Adelaide Bite. Catch up on all the Australian Baseball League action at web.theabl.com.au

Chinese Taipei/Indians prospect Chun-Hsiu Chen under watchful eye of MLB in 2011 Taiwan Series

Performing slightly behind Chinese Taipei national teammate and Red Sox prospect Che-Hsuan Lin in the recently played five game 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series against the MLB All-Stars, Cleveland Indians top ten prospect Chun-Hsiu Chen hit .250 (4 for 16) with a double, RBI and two runs scored. Switching off between duties behind the plate as catcher and designated hitter for the Chinese-Taipei national team, the Taiwanese-born 23-year old Chen was on a tight leash held cautiously by Cleveland Indians scouting operations assistant Jason Lynn, who monitored his use in the exhibition series and kept an eye out for emerging talent. Protecting his team’s prized jewel, Lynn explained: “He’s an important player for us. Certainly there’s some development left for him, but I think he’s got a pretty promising future ahead of him if he continues to get better.”

With the much publicized early 2011 season-ending injury to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey and the similar fate suffered in 2010 to Indians backstop Carlos Santana after plummeting collisions at the plate, Cleveland had every right to be concerned about Chen’s safety. In fact, Chun-Hsiu Chen’s imminent rise to join the ranks in the Major Leagues is a form of protection for Cleveland Indians everyday catcher Carlos Santana, who also saw his share of appearances as designated hitter and first baseman this past season. Promoting Chen as Santana’s backup and MLB teammate would increase the longevity of both players over the course of their careers.

Signed by the Indians as a high-profile free agent in September 2007, Chen was originally a third baseman and pitcher in Taiwan. Converted to a catcher for his powerful arm since then, Chun-Hsiu Chen quickly took to the position as demonstrated by his 37% success rate in throwing out potential base stealers in 2010. Ascending up the Single-A/Advanced ranks with an impressive .315 batting average, Chen fast became a breakout player in the Cleveland organization and finished second in batting in the Indians farm system. Named to the 2010 Futures All-Star Game, Chun-Hsiu Chen was promoted to Double-A Akron in 2011.

Driving in 70 runs and setting a record for an Indians catcher with his 16 home runs, Chen racked up enough power numbers to be selected to represent the West Division in the 2011 Eastern League All-Star Game. Recently chosen as Indians Prospect Insider.com Hitter of the Year, one could certainly make a case for Chen’s immediate promotion to AAA Columbus next year. However, should Chun-Hsiu Chen continue to pulverize Minor League pitching, it won’t be too long before we see him calling games for the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

Mariners prospect Chih-Hsien Chiang making Chinese-Taiwanese proud in Arizona Fall League

Slugger Chih-Hsien Chiang shattered club records as a Red Sox Minor Leaguer and was chosen Eastern League 2011 Player of the Year.

Acquired by the Seattle Mariners on July 31st in the trade that sent pitcher Erik Bedard to the Boston Red Sox, 23-year-old Taiwanese-born outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang was recently selected as the recipient for the George M. Trautman Award for Topps Eastern League 2011 Player of the Year after being the driving force behind the Red Sox’s AA affiliate Portland Seadogs in Portland, Maine. The awards are presented to the player of the year in each of the 16 domestic Minor Leagues by the Topps Company of New York, in conjunction with the Minor League Baseball. Leading the Eastern League in batting average (.340), runs batted in (76), doubles (37), extra-base hits (59), runs scored (68) and slugging percentage (.648), Chiang was the Eastern League Player of the Month for June and July as well as the 2011 Most Valuable Player runner-up. Racking up 18 home runs and four triples in 88 Seadogs games this past season, the left-handed hitting Chih-Hsien Chiang combined his 2011 impressive numbers to his 2010 campaign in setting a new franchise record for grand slams (3) and being only one of two players to homer in four straight games.

Chih-Hsien Chiang in the 2011 Arizona Fall League adds new life to the Seattle Mariners bright future.

Prior to playing for the Peoria Javelinas–a team of professional baseball prospects from the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers and the recently crowned 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals–in the Arizona Fall League (AFL), Chiang was a stand out in both the Major League Baseball Futures Game on July 10th in Phoenix, Arizona and the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 13th in Manchester, New Hampshire. Ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the Mariners number 10 prospect with a projected 2013 Major League debut, Chih-Hsien Chiang blasted his first home run of the AFL season off Surprise Saguaros reliever Alejandro Ramos in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s extra inning 10-7 heartbreak and then went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs in Thursday’s 9-5 loss to the Salt River Rafters. Batting .297 overall and .421 against left-handed pitching in 64 at bats in the AFL, the six-foot two slugger is quite intimidating in the batter’s box. Switching off as designated hitter and right fielder for Peoria, the reverberation of Chih-Hsien Chiang’s bat will be felt after every swing well beyond the Arizona desert and across the Pacific Rim to the delight of baseball lovers worldwide. Stay tuned as the best has yet to come!

Chinese Taipei & Red Sox prospect Che-Hsuan Lin earns respect of MLB in Taiwan All-Star Series

We could see the writing on the wall back in 2008 at iconic Yankee Stadium when 19-year-old Taiwanese-born Che-Hsuan Lin came off the bench as a defensive replacement to play center field in the sixth inning of the Futures Game between his World team and host United States. Best known for flashing his lightening quick agility and speed, it made perfect sense for World Manager Tino Marinez to insert Lin to protect his slim 1-0 lead late in the contest. However, it was Che-Hsuan Lin’s bat that would break this game wide open for the visiting World team. Never considered a power-hitting threat, Lin drove the first pitch he saw in the seventh inning–a 94 mph fastball from Colorado Rockies righthander Ryan Mattheus–over the left field wall for a two-run home run. Che-Hsuan Lin would also hit a single in the ninth and later celebrate receiving the Larry Doby Award as the game’s Most Valuable Player in the World team’s 3-0 victory. This was deja vu as Lin’s heroics were prevalent back in 2000 when belting a grand-slam homer to catapult his Tai-Nan Chinese Taipei team to a twelve and under PONY Baseball Bronco League World Championship in Monterey, California.Ranked eight in the 2008 Boston Red Sox prospects list, Che-Hsuan Lin played for the Chinese Taipei baseball squad in the Olympics. Working his way up the ladder to the Major League level, Lin has been chosen as the Boston Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year(2008 & 2010) as well as the Eastern League’s Best Defensive Outfielder(2010). By leading all Eastern League outfielders with a .991 fielding percentage and ranking second with 15 assists entering the 2010 season, Baseball America rated Lin as being the Best Defensive Outfielder and having the Best Defensive Arm in Boston’s farm system. Most recently in the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series as a member of the Chinese Taipei national team, 23-year-old Che-Hsuan Lin once again demonstrated with his throwing arm that he is a force to be reckoned with in MLB’s future. MLB All-Stars outfielder Josh Reddick spoke candidly about his former Red Sox Minor League teammate, “He’s got the best arm I’ve ever seen.” Reddick elaborated, “The accuracy is not 100 percent there yet, but I’ve seen him make throws from the warning track to third on one hop and throw a guy out at second, so it’s pretty unreal to see what he can do.” Asked about Lin’s offensive ability, Reddick enthusiastically responded: “He’s also a great leadoff hitter, he can steal bases, he can hit for contact, so once he learns to develop a little bit of power, I think that’s the only step he needs. But he runs like a deer out in the outfield and is so smooth.” In the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series, Che-Hsuan Lin led the Chinese Taipei national team in hitting with a .417 batting average (5 for 12), including two doubles and two runs batted in. Bets are on that Lin and Reddick will soon reunite as teammates at Fenway Park in Boston…

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