Red Sox pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu strikes out 9 over 5 scoreless innings for High-A Greenville

Red Sox pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu dazzled in his second start of the season for High-A Greenville on Tuesday night.

Matched up against the Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox affiliate), Liu scattered just two hits and one walk to go along with nine strikeouts over five scoreless innings of work at Fluor Field. The Drive went on to defeat the Dash, 5-4, courtesy of a walk-off home run from Stephen Scott.

Liu took a perfect game into the fourth inning before yielding a leadoff walk to Cuban sensation Oscar Colas that was followed by a one-out single off the bat of Bryan Ramos. The right-hander ultimately retired 14 of the 18 batters he faced while finishing with a final pitch count of 75.

Of those 75 pitches, 55 went for strikes. According to Chris Clegg of Fantrax, Liu sat at 94-95 mph with his fastball and topped out at 97 mph with the pitch while also mixing in a slider, curveball, and changeup. The majority of his swings-and-misses came on either the fastball or slider, per Clegg.

Through his first two starts of the year for the Drive, Liu has posted an ERA of 3.00, a WHIP of 1.00, and batting average against of .156 across nine total innings pitched. The 23-year-old has struck out 12 of the first 36 batters (33%) he has faced in 2022 and has walked four of them.

Liu, who turned 23 earlier this month, came into the 2022 campaign regarded by Baseball America as the No. 32 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 13th among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally signed the Taiwanese-born hurler as an international free agent coming out of Tainan City in October 2019.

With the 2020 minor-league season being wiped out as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Liu did not make his organizational debut until last July and only has 15 career starts as a professional under his belt.

So, even though he has been with the Red Sox for nearly two years, there is still a lot of intrigue when it comes to what Liu’s development as a pitcher could look like. He is currently listed at 6-foot and 182 pounds, so there could be room for additional growth physically. Whether he will pan out as a starter or reliever in the long-term has yet to be determined.

(GIF of Chih-Jung Liu via the Greenville Drive)

What to expect from Red Sox pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu in 2022 following solid debut season

The road to the major-leagues has been far from a conventional one for Red Sox pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu.

Signed out of Taiwan as an international free agent in October 2019, Liu’s path to the pros was almost immediately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic the following spring.

Upon arriving in the United States that February, Liu was forced to quarantine from his hotel room in Fort Myers since the Red Sox were being extremely cautious during the early stages of the pandemic.

That quarantine period delayed Liu’s entrance into spring training, and it prevented him from making any real progress on the mound since camps across Major League Baseball were shut down in March.

As a result of the league-wide shutdown, Liu did not get to enjoy a conventional minor-league season in 2020. He instead headed back to Taiwan and rode out the lockdown at home before receiving an invite to participate in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league.

At fall instructs, Liu finally got the opportunity to pitch in front of Red Sox brass for an extended period of time. Then-vice president of player of development Ben Crockett was among those who was impressed with what they saw out of the right-hander.

“Great to actually see him,” Crockett told The Athletic’s Chad Jennings. “[He was] really interesting. Showed good stuff. Good fastball with carry. Showed pitch-ability. Showed an ability to use multiple pitches that will ultimately help him. It was definitely nice to kind of get him into more of a professional routine.”

After wrapping things up at the Fenway South complex that fall, Liu returned to Taiwan and spent the winter there. He made the trek back to Southwest Florida the following spring and remained there for both minor-league and extended spring training.

Last July, the moment finally arrived when Liu could make his highly-anticipated pro debut in the Florida Complex League. Matched up against the FCL Pirates Gold affiliate in Bradenton, the righty allowed two earned runs on three hits, no walks, and six strikeouts over five solid innings of work.

That happened on July 1. The following day, Liu received a promotion to Low-A Salem, where he would spend the remainder of the year. In 12 starts for Salem, the 22-year-old posted a 4.29 ERA and 4.11 FIP to go along with 54 strikeouts to 19 walks across 50 1/3 innings pitched.

Among those in the Low-A East who accrued at least 50 innings on the mound in 2021, Liu ranked 33rd in strikeouts per nine innings (9.66), 34th in walks per nine innings (3.40), 28th in strikeout rate (25.4%), 38th in walk rate (8.9%), 39th in batting average against (.255), 29th in WHIP (1.35), 29th in ERA, 18th in FIP, and 19th in xFIP (4.02), per FanGraphs.

At the conclusion of the minor-league season, Liu participated in the Sox’ fall performance program. He then went back to Taiwan for the off-season, but he did so with a particular goal in mind.

In an interview with The Central News Agency from December, Liu said the Red Sox wanted him to weigh in at 90 kilograms, or about 198 pounds, by the time he returned to the club in the spring. His listed weight at the beginning of last season was 185 pounds but he told The Central News Agency that he was now weighing in at 89 kilograms (196 pounds), meaning he is close to reaching his goal.

Coming into the 2022 season, Liu is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 25 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 11th among pitchers in the organization. The 6-foot, 196 pound hurler operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 91-94 mph fastball that tops out at 95 mph, an 82-84 mph changeup, and an 83-86 mph slider, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

A native of Tainan City, Liu is a former two-way player who signed with the Red Sox for $750,000 out of Chinese Culture University in 2019. He will turn 23 in April and is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 campaign in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation.

(Picture of Chih-Jung Liu: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox prospect Juan Chacon ‘caught some attention’ at fall instructs, Eddie Romero says

Like fellow prospect Chih-Jung Liu, Juan Chacon’s baseball experience in 2020 was anything but normal.

The 17-year-old was likely going to spend the majority of the year playing in the Dominican Summer League, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that caused the minor-league season to be cancelled prevented that from happening.

Instead of getting more exposure in the Dominican, where he played in the Tricky League last summer, Chacon had to wait until early October to get his first real opportunity of 2020.

Up until then, Chacon had been working out a facility in Miami, which likely gave him an edge in preparedness when he received an invite to the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“It was our official version of seeing him, finally under supervision,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero said of Chacon when speaking with WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “He has a tool-set. He is a plus-runner. It was something when we first saw him he kept getting faster every time and by signing day he was running a 6.6 60. He’s got above-average arm strength. We think he’s somebody who can stay in the middle of the field and cover a lot of range. He’s got a strong arm. And offensively, right now he’s got a projectable frame. He’s very athletic. He’s somebody from an offensive standpoint, he uses the whole field.”

The Red Sox signed Chacon, a right-handed hitter, out of Venezuela for $900,000 last July, making him the club’s highest-paid international signee for the 2019-2020 international signing period.

That is quite the investment, and with that investment comes somewhat lofty expectations; expectations which Chacon lived up to at fall instructs.

“He performed well at instructs,” Romero added. “Which for a first-year signee, usually [with those] those guys, there aren’t many of them we push straight to the stateside instructional league. We wanted to see him and he did well and I know he caught some attention.”

Regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 49 prospect, the 6-foot-2, 170 lb. outfielder will have the opportunity to ascend the prospect ranks some more once he actually gets the chance to see some in-game action. That will presumably happen in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League at some point in 2021.

Fall instructs allowed Red Sox prospect Chih-Jung Liu to get ‘into more of a professional routine,’ Ben Crockett says

Chih-Jung Liu’s first exposure to professional baseball in the United States has been hindered by unprecedented circumstances.

The 21-year-old right-handed pitching prospect was originally signed by the Red Sox out of Taiwan for $750,000 last October, and the 2020 season was supposed to serve as his springboard into the organization

Instead, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused plans to change in a variety of ways, as Liu had to quarantine in his Fort Myers hotel room upon arriving from Taipei for spring training in late February.

While the pandemic continued to roll on in the United States as the calendars flipped to March, Major League Baseball was eventually forced to shut down all spring training camps on March 12.

With the majority of players returning to their homes as a result of that decision, Liu, too, decided to go back to Taiwan so he could work out in a familiar environment given all the uncertainties the U.S. was facing at that time.

Liu would remain in his home country until late September, when he made the trek back to Florida after receiving an invitation to participate in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league.

Once fall instructs began the following week, the Red Sox finally had the chance to see what exactly Liu brought to the table over an extended period of time.

Based off what vice president of player development Ben Crockett told The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, the club was quite impressed with what they saw from the right-hander.

“He was in spring training for such a short period of time,” Crockett said of Liu. “[It was] great to actually see him. [He was] really interesting. Showed good stuff. Good fastball with carry. Showed pitch-ability. Showed an ability to use multiple pitches that will ultimately help him. It was definitely nice to kind of get him into more of a professional routine.”

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 18 prospect, the 6-foot, 180 lb. hurler operates with a three-pitch mix that includes a 92-96 mph that can top out at 98 mph, an 86-88 mph slider, and a low-80s changeup “with some fade,” per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Because so little has been seen of him to this point, it’s difficult to project what Lui’s 2021 season will look like in terms of which minor-league level he starts at.

Wherever he does start out next spring, Liu does figure to work as a starting pitcher for the time being despite the fact he was a two-way player in high school and excelled as a switch-hitting infielder in college while taking a two-year break from pitching.

(Top photo of Liu: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox Prospect Chih-Jung Liu Being Quarantined Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Red Sox Taiwanese pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu is being quarantined in a hotel room by the team, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

Per Abraham, Liu departed Taipei on a flight to San Francisco last week, where he, along with all international travelers, was screened for the virus.

Arriving in Fort Myers with the hopes of being ready for minor-league camp, the 20-year-old right-hander is instead “being quarantined in a hotel room by the Sox to guard against the coronavirus.”

The most recent reports from the Centers of Disease Control state that there have been 31 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Taiwan, and according to a team spokesman, the Red Sox are using “an over abundance of caution” with this international issue, as they also quarantined Taiwanese infielder Tzu-Wei Lin earlier in February.

“I had been here for a week and they said I needed to go back to my apartment,” Lin told Abraham. “I was fine. I stayed away for one day and that was it.”

While in quarantine, Liu is “being delivered three meals a day, doing some weight training, and going for an occasional run,” per his Facebook page.

The Red Sox signed Liu as a two-way international prospect out of Taiwan for $750,000 back in October, but according to vice president of player development Ben Crockett, the plan is to have Liu develop as a pitcher.

“We’re just really excited to get our hands on him,” Crockett said of Liu to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings. “This guy has good stuff, and we know he’s athletic, and we’ve heard really good things about him as a person, too.”

According to MLB Pipleine, Liu is ranked as the Sox’ No. 17 prospect. If he is healthy, which he says he is, he is expected to report to Fenway South on Saturday.