The Boston Red Sox are using the international market to boost their farm system, signing right-handed pitcher Chih-Jung Liu from Taiwan.
They haven’t named a general manager yet but the Boston Red Sox aren’t waiting around to upgrade their organization’s pitching depth. The team agreed to terms with Taiwanese right-handed pitcher Chih-Jung Liu for $750,000, reports Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe.
Liu led Taiwan to a gold medal in the Asian Championships and earned MVP honors. He was a teammate of Red Sox infielder Tzu-Wei Lin, who may have been a factor in convincing him to sign with Boston.
The 20-year old dealt with injuries in high school that forced him to abandon pitching in his first year of college but he returned to the mound in 2019 with newfound velocity. Liu’s fastball has jumped to 98 mph and that velocity makes him an appealing prospect if he can average anywhere near that. Tyler Glasnow, Gerrit Cole, and Walker Buehler were the only major league starters to average north of 97 mph this season, per Statcast.
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It’s unclear if the Red Sox will groom him as a starter or use him out of the bullpen to harness his max velocity but Liu would remain in elite company as a reliever with that type of heat.
When he wasn’t pitching, Liu was a switch-hitting shortstop with power. Boston could potentially use him as a two-way player, similar to how the Los Angeles Angels used Shohei Ohtani in his rookie season, but the focus appears to be on his potential as a pitcher. At least if Liu’s talents on the mound don’t translate from overseas or if he suffers any more injuries that prevent him from pitching, his bat could provide value at a premium position.
Pitching was a clear weakness for the Red Sox in 2019 and their farm system lacks talent ready to step into the major league rotation. Boston has struggled to develop pitchers for years with Jon Lester being the last true ace the organization has drafted. This is partially due to trading away several top pitching prospects over the years but the Red Sox haven’t had much success drafting pitchers.
Which is why it’s interesting to see them sign an international pitching prospect. Boston has found some gems on the international market, including Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. If they’ve found another in Liu, he would provide a significant boost to one of baseball’s weakest farm systems.
Liu is preparing to play for Taiwan in the upcoming Premier12 tournament, an Olympic qualifier. He’s probably a few years away from the majors but his performance in this tournament may give us more insight into how far along he is in his development.