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.
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…