Indians Acquire Rays Right-Hander Chih-Wei Hu

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In advance of the Rule V draft protection deadline, the Indians acquired right-handed pitcher Chih-Wei Hu from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for infielder Gionti Turner

The main reason that the Rays made this deal was for the purpose of clearing a 40-man roster spot before tomorrow’s deadline to protect prospects from the Rule V draft. The 25-year old righty has an excellent fastball that rides up in the mid 90’s and can top out at 97. He has a wide arsenal, including a plus change-up that sits around 88-89. His curve and splitter are both workable, but nothing to write home about,  but his fifth pitch, the cutter, is rather excellent. Overall, Hu took a major step back in 2018, posting a 4.66 ERA over 102.1 innings pitched in Triple-A with a 4.19 FIP. Over a much smaller sample size in the majors, he posted a 4.15 ERA and a 4.01 FIP over 13.1 innings pitched. Despite solid control (2.46 BB/9 in Triple-A, 2.08 BB/9 in Tampa), he struggled with the long-ball (1.23 HR/9 in Triple-A, 1.38 HR/9 in Tampa).  At one time, he had been solid at inducing ground balls, but has struggled recently, typically sticking in the mid-30’s.

Personally, I believe that Hu should drop the curve and splitter and focus on becoming a three-pitch reliever.  His change and cutter are both plus pitches and his fastball could play up in shorter stints. He could become a borderline elite reliever if used correctly. He has one minor league option remaining and will probably compete for a bullpen spot in camp. Based on Cleveland’s depth in pitching, he may not have a realistic shot for the Opening Day roster, as he has to compete against Shane BieberJon Edwards, Nick Goody, Tyler Olson, James Hoyt, Ben Taylor, Adam Plutko and Cody Anderson. With strong results in Triple-A and injuries, he seems likely to serve as an integral part of the taxi-squad.

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As for the Rays half of the deal, Turner is an 18-year old who was selected by the Indians in the 27th round of the 2018 draft. Over 46 games, he slashed .296/.348/.396 and while he showed decent speed, he showed a lack of discipline getting caught six times out of 15 attempts. He saw time at second, short and center field and while his defensive numbers weren’t great at short or center, he was above average at second base with a 4.38 RF/9. While his batting average was very strong, he rode a very high .386 BABip, and struggled with his plate discipline walking just 6.4% of the time. He’s obviously far away, as an 18-year old drafted directly out of high school and profiles as a utility infielder long-term if he makes it to the majors.

Looking at the deal at face value, I much prefer the Indians’ side of it, as Hu has the potential to be a very solid reliever. The Indians have four open spots remaining on the 40-man roster and only have two slam dunk protections that need to be made in Bobby Bradley and Sam Hentges

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