How did Red Sox pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu fare in 2022?

Last Saturday marked the three-year anniversary of the Red Sox signing right-hander Chih-Jung Liu as an international free agent out of Taiwan.

Formerly a two-way player in high school and a switch-hitting shortstop in college, Liu received a signing bonus of $750,000 from the Red Sox to work strictly as a pitcher. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tainan City native did not make his professional debut until last July. He made one start in the Florida Complex League before spending the rest of the 2021 campaign with Low-A Salem.

After compiling a 4.29 ERA in 12 starts with the Salem Red Sox, Liu broke camp with High-A Greenville earlier this spring. In many ways, this season was a sophomore slump of sorts for the 23-year-old righty.

Through July 3, Liu had posted an unsightly 7.07 ERA and 6.30 FIP with 59 strikeouts to 25 walks in his first 15 appearances (13 starts) and 56 innings for the Drive. He was allowing more than two home runs per nine innings while yielding a .286 batting average against.

On July 6, Liu was placed on the development list. He did not appear in a game for the next nine days before returning to the mound on July 15. From that point forward, Liu pitched better, though the results were still not great.

In his next 10 outings (eight starts) for Greenville, Liu produced a 4.87 ERA and 6.84 FIP to go along with 47 strikeouts to 21 walks across 44 1/3 innings of work. His strikeout rate rose and his batting average against fell, but he still surrendered 2.64 homers per nine innings and walked nearly 11 percent of the batters he faced.

All told, Liu pitched to a 6.10 ERA and 6.54 FIP in 25 appearances (21 starts) and 100 1/3 innings with the Drive. Among the 18 South Atlantic League pitchers who tossed at least 100 frames this season, Liu ranked ninth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.51), 10th in strikeout rate (23.7 percent), and fourth in swinging-strike rate (14.9 percent). Yet he also ranked 14th in walks per nine innings (4.13) and walk rate (10.3 percent), 17th in batting average against (2.82), and dead last in homers per nine innings (2.42), WHIP (1.57), ERA, and FIP, per FanGraphs.

As inconsistent as those numbers may be, Liu still earned a late-season promotion to Double-A Portland. He made one start for the Sea Dogs on the road against the Somerset Patriots on September 18 and allowed two runs over 3 2/3 innings. Fittingly, one of those two runs came by way of the long ball.

Listed at 6-feet and 185 pounds, Liu possesses an athletic delivery and operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph four-seam fastball that tops out at 98 mph, a mid-90s two-seam fastball, an 80-82 mph changeup, an 83-86 mph slider, and a 78-80 mph curveball. He also used to throw a splitter as an amateur.

Liu, who turns 24 in April, spent his first two seasons in pro ball ranked by Baseball America as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. He has since fallen off the publication’s rankings, but he is still young enough that he could get back with a bounce-back effort in 2023.

On that note, SoxProspects.com projects that Liu will return to Portland for the start of the 2023 season. He can become Rule 5-eligible for the first time in his career next fall, so pitching his way onto the Sox’ 40-man roster could serve as some form of motivation for him.

(Picture of Chih-Jung Liu: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

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)

After rough 2020 season with Red Sox, Dylan Covey enjoyed success in Taiwan in 2021

Remember when Dylan Covey was one of 27 pitchers the Red Sox used during a dismal 2020 season that only consisted of 60 games?

A former fourth-round pick of the Oakland Athletics who broke in with the White Sox in 2017, Covey was effectively released by Chicago leading up to the 2020 season and inked a minor-league deal with the Rays shortly thereafter.

On the other side of the COVID-19-induced shutdown that placed a freeze on transactions across Major League Baseball, the Rays traded Covey to the Red Sox in late July.

The right-hander was initially optioned to Boston’s alternate training site, but wound up making the club’s Opening Day roster. He made his Red Sox debut against the Orioles on July 25 and was then sent back down to Pawtucket the following day.

On August 8, Covey was recalled from the alternate training site, paving the way for him to make three more appearances out of the Sox’ bullpen before getting optioned eight days later.

Fast forward nearly four weeks, and Covey’s name was called upon once again. He closed out the shortened campaign on Boston’s big-league roster and made four final relief appearances in the process of doing so.

All told, Covey posted a 7.07 ERA — yet a much more respectable 3.91 FIP — to go along with 11 strikeouts to just two walks over eight outings spanning 14 total innings of work in his three stints with the club.

Following the conclusion of the 2020 World Series, the Red Sox outrighted Covey off their 40-man roster, thus allowing the righty to become a free agent since he had already accrued more than three years of major-league service time.

It’s unclear if Covey — a client of CAA Sports — was pursuing big-league opportunities upon hitting the open market, but he ultimately inked a one-year deal with the Rakuten Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League last May.

Equipped with a five-pitch mix that consists of a slider, four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, and curveball, Covey debuted for Rakuten’s first-team in late August.

In 10 starts for the Monkeys, the 30-year-old put up a 4.01 ERA and 3.14 FIP with 38 strikeouts and 17 walks across 58 1/3 innings pitched. According to CPBLStats.com, he yielded a minuscule 0.84 ERA over his final five starts of the year.

Last month, it was revealed that Rakuten had re-signed Covey to a one-year contract for the upcoming 2022 season, which begins in April.

If Covey — who turns 31 in August — can put together another productive season in Taiwan, it would be fascinating to see if the 6-foot-1, 214 pound hurler could garner enough interest from MLB teams to ponder a return to the United States next winter.

(Picture of Dylan Covey: CPBL Stats)

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.

 

Red Sox Agree to Deal With Two-Way Taiwanese Prospect Chih-Jung Liu

The Red Sox have reportedly signed 20-year-old two-way player Chih-Jung Liu as an international free agent out of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, per CPBLStats.com.

The signing was made on Wednesday, with Liu receiving a signing bonus of $750,000, according to The Boston’s Globe Pete Abraham.

A native of Taiwan, Liu played college ball at Culture University in Taipei City, where he excelled as a hitter after taking a few years off from pitching due to injuries suffered in high school.

Returning to the mound this fall, the right-hander continued to impress, at one point reaching 97 MPH with his four-seam fastball during an October 3rd start and 101 MPH in his latest start this past Sunday for Team Taiwan in the Asian Baseball Championship Gold Medal game against Japan.

As indicated by CPBL Stats, Liu is currently training with the Taiwanese National Team in preparation for the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s Premier12 tournament, which begins on November 2nd.

Red Sox infielder and Taiwan native Tzu-Wei Lin is also part of those preparations and the two already appear to have a solid relationship.

“I’m glad I have the opportunity to play professional baseball overseas,”Liu told reporters Wednesday. “There is also Lin Tzu-Wei in the organisation, he will look after me.”

Despite the fact that the Sox have yet to name a head of baseball operations to this point, the quartet of Brian O’Halloran, Eddie Romero, Raquel Ferreira, and Zack Scott appear to have things under control for the time being, at least in the international signing department.

Once this signing does become official, more details are sure to come, so make sure to stay tuned for that.