Scouting Yankee Prospect #11: Chien-Ming Wang
By Frankie Piliere
Date: Feb 7, 2005
The Yankees inked Chien-Ming Wang to a $1.9 million deal back in 2000 but he was temporarily setback by arm problems. Wang came back with a strong 2004 campaign to put himself back on the prospect map. It's this reason that he's our Yankee's prospect #11. (Free Preview of Premium Content)
Name: Chien-Ming Wang
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: March 31, 1980
Height: 6' 3"
Of course, for obvious reasons, Chien-Ming Wang was surrounded by nothing but hype after the Yankees signed him to his monster contract for a player that never played a Major League game. It was another Evil Empire victory as the Yankees had once again out bid the Braves, Rockies, Mariners, Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Orioles for his services. But for Wang, he wouldn't have it any other way. "The chance to compete in U.S. baseball is my greatest dream, particularly by joining the Yankees, who have won 25 World Series titles," Wang told Baseball America through an interpreter. "I am so excited I can't sleep." Here is what the Yankees coordinator of Pacific Rim Scouting, John Cox had to say about Wang as he spoke with Baseball America. "We're very proud of Wang," Cox said. "He's got size, almost a perfect delivery, great arm speed and we expect big things from him." "Most pitchers when faced with losing a run will let the pressure influence their delivery. That's not the case with Wang," Cox said. "Our scouts noticed that Wang's delivery becomes faster the tighter the jam. He throws his best pitches when the game is on the line."
"Tiger" Wang would begin his quest for his ultimate goal of making it to the Major Leagues in 2000 when the New York Yankees assigned him to the Staten Island Yankees. "Growing up in Taiwan, I had heard so much about the Yankees but had never even seen them on TV," Wang told SLAM! Sports. "I watch Roger Clemens on TV whenever I can, he's amazing." He already was as hyped as possible and his prospect glow became even more blinding as he performed beautifully in his first professional season. For the season, he tossed 87 innings, striking out 75 batters and compiling an impressive 2.48 ERA.
However, things came to a screeching halt when Wang was forced to undergo major arthroscopic surgery on this right shoulder. This would cause him to miss the entire 2001 season and would end up being a major setback for the righthander. But, he returned to Staten Island in 2002 and absolutely dominated. In 12 games, he went 6-1 with a minuscule 1.72 ERA while striking out 64 batters as well. Not to tarnish his great 2002 season but it was obvious that Wang was playing below the level he should be at and that fact was that he still did not have his full strength back in that shoulder. That chink in his armor would be exposed in a big way as he would jump all the way to AA Trenton and have a very pedestrian season in which he compiled a 4.65 ERA. However, one can't fault Wang for this. It is well documented that when healthy, Chien-Ming Wang can consistently hit 95 MPH on the radar gun. But during the 2003 season in Trenton, he struggled just to throw 90 MPH. This was not a fully recovered Wang and the organization was fully aware of that.
Despite the disappointing 2003 season Wang, he had some off season accomplishments that breathed new life into him as well. Wang pitched for the Taiwan Baseball Team in the Asian Games and as the apparent ace of the staff, leading them to a berth in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Either way, Wang would have to repeat in AA Trenton in 2004. He came back strong in 2004 as he did a solid job for the Thunder. He posted a solid 4.05 ERA to go along with a 6-5 record. Another impressive statistic was that Wang struck out 90 batters while walking only 26. He also ate up 109 innings for Trenton. This performance was more than enough to earn a promotion to AAA Columbus in late July.
Suddenly it happened. Chien-Ming Wang once again became the guy that they once thought he would be. It may have gradually began in AA Trenton but it was obvious when he pitched for the Clippers. All of a sudden, he was that big time pitcher that the Yankees thought he would be. He is throwing 96 MPH again with that good slider and incredible command. However, it is probably more so that we just forget that, after undergoing the serious surgery that he did, the recovery time for returning to complete form is over two years. Well, the real Chien-Ming Wang is back and the Yankees are thrilled, with good reason. In Columbus, Wang compiled a 2.01 ERA and posted a 5-1 record. The lanky righty has a chance to make the big club at some point in 2005 after his dominating performance at AAA last season.
Repertoire. Fastball, Splitter, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball. To put it simply, "Tiger" Wang throws smoke. Although he went through periods of inconsistency after shoulder surgery, he is now back to the hard throwing righty that the Yankees signed. In his first season back, he lost some of his confidence in his naturally explosive four seam fastball, trying to fool hitters too much with his off speed stuff. But, once he earned to trust his naturally electric heater, his success increased immensely in 2004, especially when you have a fastball that ranges anywhere from 92-95 MPH, touching 97-98 MPH on several occasions. But, the thing that impresses teammates and coaches about Wang is that there have been multiple cases in which he's been noted as reaching velocities of 97 MPH in the eighth inning. He has a pure power fastball and has finally bought into attacking the zone with it. That was the difference in him in 2004.
Other Pitches. Once again, no one could ever accuse Chien-Ming Wang of having a shallow repertoire. He has a good slider but as of now, it is not an overwhelming pitch. But, it is enough to make a right handed hitter reach over the plate to set up a fastball pounded in on the hands. He also possesses a decent changeup but he does not use it all that often. Out of all his pitches, though, the one he does business with is his splitter. When, he is on, it is is nearly unhittable. If he can keep it consistent, it will be his biggest weapon against lefty hitters.
Pitching. A power pitcher? You bet he is. Wang has a smooth, loose, quick arm action that produces of a live fastball that explodes on the plate. He used to be far more tentative but he turned the corner in 2004. In AA, he struggled a bit with lefties but he seemed to improve upon that problem as the season unfolded. His command and control is a plus attribute along with his strikeout potential. The only chinks he has in his armor is his ability to stay healthy and retire lefty hitters. Other than that, he shows you why the Yankees gave him the big bucks. Wang has frontline stuff, but he needs to develop more consistency.
Projection. Wang has the electric stuff to sit atop a big league staff. However, can he consistently get left-handed hitters out? That will be the key. But, either way, he is going to make a superb middle-of-the-rotation starter, at minimum. However, if he can find a way to retire lefties, he will be more of a frontline starter. "Tiger" Wang has strikeout potential to go along with great control. Righties look foolish off him but getting lefties out will be the key to his future.
ETA. 2005. Yes, Wang is about the only true pitching prospect that is ready for big league action right now. But, will he get his chance? We'll see. If Kevin Brown or any other pitcher on the Bronx Bomber staff should falter or get injured, Wang should be the first to get the call. So, it is safe to say, considering the aging Yankee staff, that we can expect to see the tall righthander break in at some point in 2005.