Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Chinese Pitcher Gong Hai Cheng 宫海成

Rick Dell and Ray Chang says hello!

Say hello to the savior of Chinese Baseball, Mr. Gong Hai Cheng 宫海成. The 18 year old that we've been drooling about this past year has been officially signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates for an undisclosed amount of money. He is the second player from the MLB China Baseball Developmental Center to be signed by a MLB team, first being Xu Gui Yuan by Baltimore Orioles in 2015. Let's take a look at his recent outings:

  • Pitched in the 2016 U18 Asia Baseball Championship against Taiwan. He threw over 100 plus pitches and six plus innings. Looked impressive for a raw Chinese talent. Fast ball was around low to mid 80s
  • Pitched 0.1 innings against Japan in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. His fastball was around 87 mph
  • He pitched 4 innings yesterday against Shanghai in the National Games Preliminaries and gave up 4 runs. 
Overall, Hai Cheng is not like any super prospect from Latin America, but is considered a pretty decent talent out of China (I'm no scout). Let me remind you that there are currently NO MLB players from China. Having two players with decent talent in the minors is already a "Great Leap Forward." He can probably add a few MPH to his fastball as he advances through the minors. I wish the best of luck to Hai Cheng. Now we have TWO players to follow! Yay!

MLB has been in China since 2003. They have definitely come a long way to produce some serious talent. They have also spend a lot of money marketing baseball in China:
  • They have four developmental centers: Wuxi, Changzhou, Nanjing and the most recent one in Chengdu just a couple of days ago. They integrate baseball with schools and provide them with education. The center houses teenagers from ages 12-18. 
  • They have a program called MLB Play Ball. They attract young children to participate in baseball activities and hold little league competitions around China. They also host reality TV shows where fans can win a trip to US to watch a game. 
  • Last year MLB struck a deal with live sports streaming channel LeSports. This allows many people to watch live games in China. 
  • Wang Peng has replaced Leon Xie as the new director of MLB China. He's been making headlines recently such as the new developmental center in Chengdu. 
People might think that fourteen years in China and they only produced two minor league talents?! What farce! But let's remember in Chinese culture that a lot of parents do not emphasize being a professional athlete as having a stable career. They want professions where their kids can make a decent living while being productive to society! nonetheless, this is a start though in paving way for more Chinese players to be signed by MLB teams. I can't wait to watch this year's U18 Asia Baseball Championship. China will definitely showcase their new talent!

Let's talk about Pittsburgh Pirates for a moment. They have a pretty decent track record of signing international players from around the world. They are truly trying to globalize the game by taking risks! Here are some notable international players(Non-Latin American) they have signed in recent years:

  • Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel - Two Indian pitchers who won the Million Dollar Arm contest back in 2008. Singh last pitched in 2016 and pretty much battled many injuries in his career. Patel called it quits back in 2010.
  • Marek Minarik - Pitcher from Czech Republic. Last pitched in 2015. 
  • Dovydas Neverauskas - Pitcher from Lithuania. He made his MLB debut earlier this year. 
  • Gift Ngoepe - First player from South African who also made his MLB debut earlier this year.
  • Jin De Jhang - Taiwanese catcher. He's been out of action so far with an oblique injury. There were many Taiwanese players before him too.
  • Let's not forget Jung Ho Kang from South Korea. They sent him special pitching machines in Korea while he is dealing with legal troubles. 
That's all for now! Today is the start of Gong Hai Cheng! I won't make any stupid predictions this time. Thanks for reading and have a great night!