It’s been a tumultuous 24 hours in the niche world that is international amateur free agent scouting and signing. Today, however, news broke in Taiwan that the Mariners have reached a deal with one of the country’s top prospects - an 18-year-old LHP by the name of Chang Ching-Yu (likely to be ordered Ching-Yu Chang in Western media). The deal is reportedly for $700,000, which would be the most a MLB team had paid a Taiwanese amateur in history, although the lump sum may be lower, with some of the funds being specifically allocated for education funding.
This deal appears to be immediate, meaning the funds would come out of the 2017-18 funding pool, which the Mariners at one time were infamously flush with. Following the Shohei Ohtani saga, Seattle traded $1.5 million of their remaining budget and used some of the remaining funds on less publicized signings, but if the deal is in fact coming out of the current signing period’s budget this would be a pleasant consolation prize. If this turns out not to be the case, and the funding instead is from the 2018-19 pool, it’s still an intriguing move, it’s just more frustrating. The fact that it’s been announced somewhat officially with financial details seems to indicate it is from the earlier pool, however.
Chang is just 18, but already boasts a fastball that runs up to 92 mph. It’s paired with a changeup, as well as a big breaking curveball and a split/forkball. Here’s a highlight clip from his dominant performance against an All-Star team from Japan’s high school circuit:
[Taiwanese high school prospect] 17 years old 張景淯 (Chang Ching-Yu) 191cm, 80kg. Pitched a 14K complete game against Japan's Wakayama All-Star. #TWHSBaseball pic.twitter.com/H4vY3TIlod— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) December 28, 2017
Chang’s size (roughly 6’2) helps his projectability, and his command with multiple pitches at such an early age no doubt excites the Mariners. The Mariners outbid the Dodgers, Red Sox, Phillies, and others for the young lefty’s services. While the Mariners have a decent history of signing Taiwanese prospects, the M’s have never employed a Taiwanese player at the MLB level. RHP Wang Chien-Ming signed a minor league deal with the Mariners in an effort to salvage his career in 2015 but never got called up from Tacoma, and INF Chen Yung-Chi pushed his way up to AAA as well in 2007-08 before stalling out. Hopefully Chang can break through that ceiling one day.
For a more extended look at his repertoire, here is an extended version of his arsenal:
A previous version of this article referenced a story about the suspension of Dominican amateurs which has been largely panned subsequently as false, and has therefore been removed.