First Look: Po-Yu Chen Shows Intriguing Pitch Mix, Leaves You Wanting More

Photo Credit: fr.rti.org.tw

 It's a very misleading narrative that the Pittsburgh Pirates refuse to spend money. Do they go out and pay for big time free agents? No, and they likely never will under the current structure of the MLB but that doesn't mean they aren't willing to give out money when they believe it can help them win.

The Pirates aren't shy about pouring resources into the draft and international pools, and Po-Yu Chen is evidence of that. From Taiwan, Chen was given $1.25 million by the Pirates to sign with the organization.

"Po-Yu Chen is an exciting young pitching prospect who has been a prominent part of the Taiwanese national program and in international competition," General Manager Ben Cherington said after signing Chen. "He has good size, moves well on the mound and has a quality pitch mix with the ability to keep getting better."

With no minor league season last year due to the pandemic, 2021 offered Chen with the first opportunity to start his professional baseball career. Originally assigned to the Florida Complex League, Chen showed that pitch mix that Cherington talked about when he was first signed.

The 19-year old righty from Taiwan struck out 29 batters in 26 innings pitched while holding the opposition to a .191 average. Even better, Chen didn't surrender a walk while in the FCL, eventually getting the call to Bradenton to fill in as the starter on Sundays to close out the season.

That success hasn't carried over with the Marauders, but again numbers don't tell the complete story as is usually the case for players in the lower levels of the minors.

While control wasn't an issue for Chen in the FCL, it has been a contributing factor his inability to get out fo the third inning in both of his outings with the Marauders.

In his first start against Fort Myers, Chen pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowed two hits, four earned runs, hit two batters and walked two while striking out two.

The control continued to escape Chen, allowing five free passes this past Sunday against Tampa. That caused him to record one less out (2 1/3 innings pitched) in this past start compared to his first.

Due to Bradenton being on the road last week during his first start, this potentially the first time most got a chance to watch Chen pitch, with the game being streamed on MiLB TV. Here's a breakdown of his start, with some stats, thoughts and video.

The final box score wasn't ideal, and for the most part neither was the on-field appearance. Chen's control escaped him once again, walking five this time. There were times where he completely in control (first inning strikeout of Jasson Dominguez), and others where he wasn't even close (three different four pitch walks).

He allowed two home runs on the day, and even they differed. Chen fell behind 3-0 to Ryder Green in the second inning and threw 88 mph fastball over the plate that was crushed and sent over the fence.

That was followed up next inning when Dominguez homered on an 0-2 count where the third pitch was thrown well below the strike zone but was golfed by the hitter. It was a pitch that shouldn't have been hittable, but really just showed the amazing talent that Dominguez possesses.

Again, while he did walk five, six of the seven outs he recorded was by strikeout, changing speeds effectively and using the entire strike zone with his breaking ball. He doesn't throw the fastball hard, but there is a lot of movement to work with.

Chen threw just 28 strikes among his 63 pitches (44.4%), but also generated 10 swing and misses. That's 35.7% of the strikes he threw were swung at and missed by the opposition.

Through the brief outing, the Pirates young prospect matched up twice against one of the better prospects in the game twice in Dominguez. While the latter made a really good play and was able to square up on the ball he had no business doing so, Chen took round one of their matchup.

The count went full, but Chen was able to get Dominguez to swing and miss twice, including for strike three on a breaking ball. Chen mixed pitched well against the Yankees top prospect, and was able to get the out.

Another at bat I wanted to highlight was his against Anthony Garcia in the second inning. Chen showed his aggressiveness against Tampa's first baseman, striking him out in three pitches after attacking the strike zone early and using both sides of the plate to finish him off.

Chen starts with a breaking ball that he gets over on the outer half for a called strike one. He follows that by changing speeds and throwing a fastball in the same area as the first pitch, getting the count to 0-2 quickly. While he doesn't throw hard, his fastball moves a lot and he does command it the majority of the time. 

The third pitch he throws another breaking ball but this one on the inner half that breaks out of the zone, easily getting Garcia to swing and miss to get the out.

Chen will be an interesting name to watch next season, where he will probably be assigned to the Marauders for most of, if not all, of the year. Normally speaking, worrying about control issues over a two start span would be a little dramatic, especially with his track record this season.

The one concern would be that the sample size you are comparing it to is also on the smaller side. While it was extremely impressive not to walk a batter in 26 straight innings, how things have turned since pitching for the Marauders should at least raise some eyebrows.

Either way, Chen has showed enough to entire the 'intriguing players to watch' lists going into next year.

What has been your thoughts on Chen? Are you excited to see what kind of showing he could have over a full season at Bradenton? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site using the link at the top of the page and follow us on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy and @__Murphy88.

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