The Cleveland Indians have once again traded away a malleable, athletic member of their talented group of AZL players in exchange for a player who can help them in 2019.
RHP Chih-Wei Hu
Tampa Bay gets:
INF Gionti Turner
Turner was a 27th rounder in the 2018 draft and has already been flipped for a big leaguer. He wasn’t a Division-I commit, and was instead headed from Watson Chapel High School in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri (different tree, still lyin’). But Cleveland signed him and he came to Arizona instead, where he managed to stand out amid many talented Cleveland teenagers. He hit .296/.348/.396 as a 17-year-old in the AZL while playing second base, shortstop, and center field.
Indeed, a multi-positional utility role is the most likely positive outcome for Turner. Lean and long-limbed, he struggles to swing the bat with any authority right now and may never have an offensive profile that fits in a lineup every day. Like many Cleveland high school draftees, Turner is extremely young for his graduating class; he didn’t turn 18 until mid-August. It’s possible that he’ll grow into relevant strength, but he’s already quite behind in that regard.
But Turner has plus speed, and a gritty, max-effort style of play, and he’s a plus-plus athlete. A lack of arm strength may limit him to the outfield and second base, but this is exactly the kind of athlete who can become an above-average defender all over the field.
25-year-old Taiwanese righty Chih-Wei Hu was a 2016 Futures Game participant and his stuff that day was as nasty as any pitcher at the event, as he sat 94-97 with a plus-plus, mid-80s changeup that seemed to disappear entirely as it approached the plate.
Hu’s five-pitch repertoire hasn’t truly been on display in his limited big league appearances, all of which have come out of the bullpen. His stuff has ticked down a bit; his fastball now sits in the 91-94 range and will touch 95, and his goofy, upper-80s palmball changeup has screwball action and is his best shot at missing big league bats. Hu also has an upper-80s slider/cutter and a low-80s knuckle curve, both of which he needs to locate in order to be effective because they’re very hittable if left in the strike zone.
Essentially, Hu has backend starter stuff but it’s possible a full-time move to the bullpen will enable his fastball to play up. If armed with a plus fastball and that weirdo changeup, Hu could be a high-leverage reliever. He still has an option year left and will likely open 2019 as a starter at Triple-A.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.