Twitter follower @27imokemp, who runs a Pirates blog called U Gotta Believe, passed along a video of Jin-De Jhang this afternoon. For those of you who don’t know, Jhang is a catching prospect in the lower levels. He was signed out of Taiwan in late 2011 for $250,000. He’s been on the radar as a prospect to watch in the lower levels, although he’s still raw in some areas, and is mostly potential at this point. He’s got the potential to be a two-way catcher, with a good bat and strong defensive skills behind the plate. Imokemp had some thoughts on Jhang on his site. Below is the video, along with my thoughts.
Jhang looked over-matched in several of the at-bats. However, he was playing a Japan team that probably has talent that is equivalent to what you would see in the upper levels of the minors. You definitely don’t see that type of breaking stuff in the GCL or NYPL, which are the two levels Jhang has played at (he’s only 20 years old). So I’m not too concerned by his offensive performance in this video. What I’ve seen from Jhang in the past is that he’s a line drive hitter who has the potential to one day hit double-digit homers. He also shows good plate patience, which you could see at times in this video, as he was taking or fighting off close pitches.
One of the big strengths from Jhang is his arm. The defense section starts at 2:49 in the video above, and features a lot of strong throws down to second. The impressive thing here is that, despite Jhang’s size, he’s quick to get out of the crouching position and fire the ball down to second with no wasted movement in the transition. That’s a big testament to his conditioning the last two years. When I saw Jhang in late 2011, he had a lot more weight on him, to the point where I didn’t see how he could be a prospect at that weight level. He really slimmed down the last two years, making him more agile behind the plate. He’s still only a potential catcher/DH option in the majors, but he’s to the point where he legitimately looks like he could reach the majors one day.
We know that the Pirates love pitch framers, and it looks like Jhang is off to a great start in his young career. The pitch framing starts at the 3:23 mark, and features some advanced skills. Jhang’s entire body has minimal movement. His head is still on low pitches, which is a challenge for some catchers who tend to move their head noticeably downward with the glove on those pitches (extreme example: Ryan Doumit). His glove is quick, grabbing the ball then immediately snapping into place back in the strike zone, where he frames the pitch perfectly. Granted, these are only the calls that went for strikes. There could be some where Jhang didn’t get the call, and there could be some where Jhang didn’t execute as well as he did in these circumstances. But overall this was impressive for a 20-year-old.