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Pirates prospect update: Shortstop Tsung-Che Cheng

With more stars emerging out of the Pacific, the Pirates may have their own in Tsung-Che Cheng.

2023 WBC Workout Day Taichung
Representing Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic, Tsung-Che Cheng got valued experience playing internationally.
Photo by Mary DeCicco/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

On this edition of the Pirates’ Prospect Update, we break down the game and journey for Tsung-Che Cheng who many believe will be a must-watch player this season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are certainly leaning on the value of signing international prospects and have particularly been making several moves signing players out of the Pacific. Cheng is certainly one of those talents that got the ball rolling. Hailing from Taiwan, Cheng signed with the Pirates out of high school in 2019, and except for an absence from competition in 2020 (entirety of Minor League ball was canceled), there has been plenty to be happy about with this signing.

Since that signing, Cheng has shown to be a capable hitter with blazing speed around the bases. He would make his full-season debut with Bradenton in 2022 and has also seen action representing Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic — playing winter ball in Colombia — and participated in the Caribbean Series.

The beginning of the 2023 season saw Cheng receive an assignment to Greensboro, where in 57 games, he would not disappoint. At the plate, Cheng had a .308 batting average with a .406 on-base percentage, as he tallied 66 hits for 45 runs, 9 triples and 9 homers. Oh, and by the way, this was all before June! Following his brief stay with the Grasshoppers, Cheng was promoted to Double-A Altoona, where his numbers would dip against stiffer pitching competition, but he still put together a respectable 2023 season. Following the yeaer, the Pirates selected Cheng’s contract to protect him from the Rule-5 draft, which in my mind says the Bucs see the value in keeping on a player like him.

Cheng is naturally a shortstop, which is where he’s seen a decent chunk of playing time since joining the Pirates’ organization, but he is capable of playing second base as well. Not that this is going to happen, but if he were to join the team today, he’d likely see action at both second and short, splitting time with Liover Peguero (who I think has earned the right to compete for his position) and the fabled move of Oneil Cruz to the outfield could come to fruition, but again that is all hypothetical future think.

The likely route for Cheng at this point is start the season with Altoona and see if he can finish out the season with Indianapolis to make good on his projected 2025 debut. With that being said, I am hopeful he participates in the “Spring Breakout” taking place in Bradenton, because I think that’s the kind of atmosphere where he could make a big splash.

Tsung-Che Cheng is currently the Pirates’ 17th ranked prospect.