If I told you that the Chicago Cubs had a pitcher in Triple-A that was sporting a 1.67 ERA and 1.12 WHIP at the highest level of the minors at just age 22 would you be impressed?
What if I told you that the same pitcher has a career minor league ERA of 3.19 and has already racked up a Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year award?
This player just HAS to be one of the best prospects in baseball and fans must be dying to call him up to the bigs and watch him dominate, right? Well you would think so, but instead, Jen-Ho Tseng is still relatively unknown by the general population of Cubs fans. Tseng finds himself stuck down at #13 on the MLB Pipeline Cubs Prospects.
But we are now officially in the waning days of the 2017 Minor League regular season and Tseng is pushing his way to a September call-up to the Major League roster. On September 1st, the regular 25-man MLB roster expands into a 40-man roster and pitchers are often the ones that get the invite to the big league squad. The addition of pitchers allows for guys like Arrieta and Lester to get a breather before the Postseason begins.
Tseng is not currently on the 40-man roster so a September call-up would have to be paired with his addition to that roster and subsequently a removal of a current 40-man player. That would come in the form of a DFA or addition of someone onto the 60-day disabled list. The tail end of this season would be his first audition for the rotation spots that will be opening up this upcoming offseason with the loss of Jake Arrieta and John Lackey through free agency.
His likely promotion this season will not be the only chance Tseng will get to prove himself as a back-end starter for 2018 though, as he will compete with the likes of Eddie Butler, Mike Montgomery, Rob Zastryzny, and others for those two spots come next February in Spring Training.
With a fastball that sits in the low 90s, locating is the name of the game for Tseng. He couples it with a changeup/curveball combination that are both plus offerings but without an extreme amount of break. With a strikeout rate that has never been very high throughout the entirety of his career (19.9% this season), Tseng relies on generating weak contact from opposing hitters and has been generally successful with doing that so far in his career. He is considered a fly ball pitcher though with a fly ball rate of 44.1% this season compared to his ground ball percentage that sits at 39.4%.
At this point, it is fairly clear that Jen-Ho Tseng will carve out a role as a back of the rotation starting pitcher for a big league club. His stuff just is not good enough to get him any higher than that. But he has proven with this 2017 season that 2014 was not a fluke and he is a legitimate prospect with Major League potential. At 22, he still have plenty of seasons left in order to prove his potential and develop into a guy that can throw every fifth day in Chicago.
As he continues to carve up Triple-A hitters for the next few weeks of the Minor League season, be prepared to watch him go after Major Leaguers once September rolls around.