Last year, Yu-Cheng Chang was ranked #14 in the LGT prospect rankings, and despite having a solid 2016, has risen just slightly to the #9 spot for 2017. But if we're being honest, the reason that he is often overlooked in the Cleveland Indians' system is because of the presence of one man: Francisco Lindor. Were the Indians not set for (hopefully) 37 years at the short stop position, Chang may get a legitimate shot at making the big league club. But with Lindor at shortstop and Jose Ramirez settling in at third base, there is seemingly nowhere for Chang to fit in Cleveland. Because of this, it's not surprising that Chang was part of the Lucroy deal that fell apart last July; he's a young, talented short stop who could have a career in the big leagues, just not in Cleveland.
Chang found his way into the Cleveland system in 2013 when he was signed as a non-drafted free agent. He began playing in 2014 at the age of 18 for the Indians team in the Arizona League, and he immediately made an impact with a .346/.420/.566 (wRC+ of 173) line over 181 plate appearances. He then moved through to the Lake County Captains where his numbers suffered; his walks were down, his strikeouts were up, his power seemed to vanish, and his BABIP normalized back to a moderate level (.288) after being fairly high in 2014 (.389).
Chang started 2016 in Lynchburg and he began to find his rhythm again to the tune of a .259/.332/.463 slash line (wRC+ of 117). He hit a career high 13 home runs and stole a career high 11 bases while driving in 70 runs. Midway through August, Chang hit the DL with a right wrist strain. He was one of the youngest players invited to the Arizona Fall League after the season and while he didn't hit for power, he did manage to bat .303 against much more experienced prospects.
At 6'1", 175 lb., Chang could continue to develop some power as he gets older and stronger (he's only 21). The big challenge for him going forward will be adapting to a new position if he remains in Cleveland. With Lindor, Ramirez, and Kipnis manning the infield positions that he would likely play, and with Yandy Diaz primed to take over as the super utility player, Chang may need to learn to play the outfield in order to become a major league player in Cleveland. But if he continues to play at short stop, don't be surprised to hear his name mentioned in future trade packages.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 10 PROSPECT FOR 2017?
Erik Gonzalez, IF (Age 25)
2016 (AAA): 460 PA, 11 HR, 12 SB, .296/.329/.450, 122 wRC+
2016 (MLB): 17 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .313/.353/.313, 83 wRC+
Blocked at SS by Francisco Lindor and likely to be passed as a utility player by Yandy Diaz. Still a capable major-leaguer who could find a permanent home somewhere in a trade.
Juan Hillman, LHP (Age 19)
2016 (A-): 63 IP, 4.43 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 16.8 K%, 8.6 BB%
2015 second-round pick with boatloads of potential. Had a 25 inning scoreless streak last season before tiring down the stretch.
Nolan Jones, 3B (Age 18)
2016 (R): 134 PA, 0 HR, 3 SB, .257/.388/.339, 118 wRC+
2016 second round pick, Jones walked at almost a 20% clip in 2016, his first season in rookie ball. Has the potential to be a solid all-around player both at the plate and in the field.
Rob Kaminsky, LHP (Age 22)
2016 (AA): 137 IP, 3.28 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 16.1 K%, 8.4 BB%
Acquired from St. Louis for Brandon Moss, Kaminsky quietly had one of the best seasons out of any of the Tribe's full-season starters last year, helping lead Akron to the title.
Shawn Morimando, LHP (Age 24)
2016 (AA): 93.1 IP, 3.09 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 19.0 K%, 9.4 BB%
2016 (AAA): 59.0 IP, 3.51 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 18.2 K%, 8.3 BB%
2016 (MLB): 4.2 IP, 11.57 ERA, 9.79 FIP, 18.5 K%, 18.5 BB%
Began 2016 in AA, moved up to AAA mid-season and was a late season call-up for Cleveland. Could be a back of the rotation starter or a reliever. Fastball sits in the low to mid-90s. Secondary pitches, including slider and changeup, are good compliments. Command is an issue moving forward.