Chun Chen has Dominated Eastern League Pitching

The Akron Aeros’ roster has been filled with many new faces in 2013. Young prospects from Carolina and Lake County have plugged the lineup day in and day out. One face that has remained the same is Aeros’ first baseman/designated hitter Chun-Hsiu Chen. In his third season at Akron, the 24 year old Chen is becoming a veteran mainstay in the middle of the lineup. His ability to get on base, put the bat on the ball, hit for power, and drive in runs have helped the Aeros stay in the divisional race. His presence has protected some of the younger hitters and taken pressure off others. He may soon be the next in line to get a call up to Columbus, but for now Aeros’ fans can come to Canal Park and watch one of the best all-around hitters in the Eastern League.

Chen was signed by the Indians in 2008 out of Taiwan at the age of 19. He started his Indians career in the Rookie League where he batted .261 in 38 games. He played in Mahoning Valley, the Indians short season single A team, in 2009, and moved up to Lake County to begin the 2010 season. He shined as the Captains catcher, batting .312 with six home runs in 58 games. His bat won him a promotion to High A Kinston Indians (now the Carolina Mudcats) where he hit six home runs in 52 games with a .320 batting average. He was promoted to Akron to kick off 2011.

His first season with the Aeros was up and down. He hit career high 16 home runs, but batted just .262. He also allowed a career high 72 stolen bases while throwing out 35% of base runners. At the time, Chen ranked as the Indians #22 prospect. Poor defense combined with the emergence of Roberto Perez as a top defensive catcher facilitated a position change for Chen in 2012. He spent much of the season between designated hitter and first base while playing only eight games behind the plate. His offense picked up considerably that season. In 108 games he hit .308 with a .394 on-base percentage and 30 doubles. His advancement seemed a little stalled as he never earned a call up to Columbus, and he would begin the 2013 campaign back in Akron.

Chen has been on fire with his bat to start the 2013 season. Last week he was leading the Eastern League in batting and his .331 average currently sits fifth in the EL. His OPS is second in the league, and he sits third in on-base percentage and second in slugging. One statistic that has been a surprise this season is Chen’s seven stolen bases in seven attempts. His single season high is nine and he is not blessed with great speed so this has come as a shock to some. I wouldn’t expect his total to reach much higher than 10 on the season, but Chen is a very savvy base runner. As-far-as stolen bases go; he is 30 for 39 in his minor league career for a 77% success rate. That is about as good as Jason Kipnis has been at the Major League level.

A hot week in April has been a huge jumping off point for Chen this season. He won the Cleveland Indians Player of the Week honors in the last week of April. He was smacked out eight hits in 17 at bats on the week for a .471 batting average. He got two or more hits in four of the Aeros five games to help Akron climb the Western Division ranks.

With 19 wins on the season the Akron Aeros sit in second place in the Eastern League Western Division. The Aeros have won six of their last ten games and sport the best home record in the West at 11-7. Akron played Reading Fighting Phils in a four game series this past week. The Aeros won the opening game 5-4, Akron pitcher T.J. House getting the win. Chen hit well going two for three with a run scored and a double. Game two began on Friday but rain suspended the game and it was completed on Saturday as part of a double header. The Aeros took game two of the series 4-3. Chen hit his sixth home run of the season with a solo shot in the third inning. Chen singled, drove in a run and scored a run in the Aeros 7-5 loss to Reading in the second game on Saturday. Sundays contest went to the Aeros by a score of 7-6. Chen’s single in the game gave him a hit in seven straight games, his longest such streak of the season.

Chen is one of the best hitters in the Eastern League and he may well be due for a trip to the Columbus Clippers. He has been one of the best hitters in the league and at age 24, he doesn’t have much left to prove at this level. He currently ranks as the Indians #15 prospect, one of four Akron Aeros in the Indians top 20.

Photo: Jesse Piecuch/DTTWLN photographer

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