Yu-Cheng Chang Needs a 2016 Without Injury to Demonstrate True Skills
Laurel Wilder | On 16, Jan 2016
At first glance, Yu-Cheng Chang doesn’t seem like your typical shortstop. The 20-year-old is tall – 6’ 1” – and lanky, physically looking like more of an outfielder or corner infielder than a middle infielder. He played outfield during high school back home in Taiwan, but started his playing career as a youngster at short, a spot the Indians organization has decided he should continue to try.
Playing shortstop for the Lake County Captains last season, Chang demonstrated that he certainly does have some growing into the position to do. His 25 errors were second on the team to third baseman Taylor Murphy’s 32, though the 25 from Chang paled in comparison to the struggles his former teammate Dorssys Paulino had at shortstop in his early days as a Lake County Captain. Having to grow into the position, though, shouldn’t cause alarm for Indians fans. Chang has shown himself to be a quick learner, and has a big arm that will help him wherever he is on the field.
Chang also has the ability to be a strong bat for the organization, though his 2015 showing wasn’t his most impressive. Chang ended the season with a .232 average, though he was tied for first on the Captains squad with four triples, and his nine home runs put him third on the list.
Chang’s showing in the Arizona League in 2014 was stronger, as he ended the season with a .346 average in 42 games. Of course, the Arizona League is a decidedly different level of play and, having skipped over short season Mahoning Valley in order to play at the Low-A level, Chang had to do more catching up than many of his teammates.
Further, Chang’s 2015 season was interrupted by a concussion in June after he was hit in the head by a pitch while the team played in Beloit, Wisconsin. The initial diagnosis rendered the injury a skull fracture, but follow-up examinations determined there was no fracture, but a mild concussion was suffered. Prior to the injury, Chang had been off to a strong start, and the injury may have curtailed some of his progress last season. Chang underwent concussion protocol before being allowed back on the field, also taking away some at-bats and resulting in a return to the game that may have been a little less aggressive than Chang would have liked.
Additionally, Chang also had to overcome the cultural shift of playing a full season in a completely different part of the world. Coming into the 2015 season, Chang spoke little English and began his season with the company of a translator to help him understand the works and actions of his – to him – foreign teammates. Chang, however, took the language barrier in stride, and dedicated himself to English classes throughout the season, as well as rooming with two English-speaking teammates who helped him through the culture gaps.
At the beginning of the season, through the help of his translator, Chang said he was also teaching some of his teammates Taiwanese phrases. He joked, though, that everybody understands the word “home run,” regardless of their background.
It’s likely that Chang will start the season again in Lake County, giving him another go-around at the Low-A level. It’s difficult to say if a promotion to High-A is in his immediate future, if only because his 2015 season was likely so marred by his mid-season injury. Will he continue his playing career at shortstop, or is a position switch in the cards for the lanky middle infielder?
Fans will hopefully find answers to these questions in 2016 as Chang makes a new, uninjured start with the Indians’ minor league.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN Photographer