Profile: C - 6'1" - 200lbs -BT:R - TH:R - 2011 Age: 22
• Hit: 45-55
• Power: 50-60
• Eye: 55-65
• Range: 40-50
• Hands: 40-50
• Arm: 40-55
• Run: 40-40
A raw power hitting catching prospect signed out of Taiwan during the 2007 season, Chen signed for a 300K bonus. He made his debut as a 19 year old in 2008 for the Gulf Coast Indians. Since then he's slowly but steadily progressed through the system and emerged in 2010 as a legitimate catching prospect after a massive season.
Coming over from Taiwan, Chen was an extremely raw product as a hitter, but possessed some good tools - particularly his raw power, solid arm, and very good eye. His swing however, was a mess. The Indian coaching staff has done a fantastic job coaching him up and for his part, he's impressed everyone with his work ethic.
Chen's approach at the plate is defined by his fairly significant leg kick, but outside of that, his swing is very fundamentally sound. He seems to lack elite bat speed, but it's good enough and he has a nice, compact swing with good leverage that allows him to deliver the bat through the zone quickly while getting good loft. He has very good fundamentals at the plate, and though he's still learning to hit breaking balls, he does a very good job identifying pitches early and will attack the fastball.
Defensively Chen is still raw. He moves pretty well behind the plate, but his instincts don't seem very natural. He also has an above average arm, but his footwork still needs work and his transfer/arm action aren't quick enough. His speed is below average and by the time he reaches the Majors, he likely wouldn't be good for more than five steals per year, if that.
A breakout season in 2010 has the import on a lot of people's radar screen. It was so good in fact that he's probably a bit under rated. He profiles in many ways like the Royals Wil Myers as a very good bat at the catchers position who will likely also require a position change at some point in the future. Which isn't to say Chen is the caliber of hitter as Myers, but he looks like a very fine player in his own right.
As we can see Chen's leap forward in 2010 came across multiple levels and he made significant strides across the board. He barreled more balls, posting strong LD rates with his typically good walk rates. He lower his strikeout rate somewhat and increased his power by a considerable margin.
All of those improvements were seeing in the numbers are also backed up by what were seeing from his swing mechanics, suggesting his transition from raw talent to talented hitter is real.
It's crazy to say this, but he reminds me a bit of fellow Indians catcher Carlos Santana. Compare Santana's age 22 season to to Chen's age 21 year. Their performance at High A Kinston is nearly identical. Saying the two profile the same way isn't fair. Santana is more polished behind the plate, and has far better natural bat speed. But Chen is no slouch and could be a poor mans version of Santana. That's good enough to be a starter for most teams.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.