The Minnesota Twins bolstered their bullpen at the trade deadline Friday afternoon, acquiring relief pitcher Kevin Jepsen from the Tampa Bay Rays. In exchange, the Rays receive a pair of right-handed pitching prospects: Chih-Wei Hu and Alexis Tapia. Here's a quick summary.
Chih-Wei Hu, RHP: Chih-Wei Hu was signed by the Twins as a free agent from Taiwan in 2012 for $220,000. He has pitched very well at the lower levels of the Minnesota farm system, posting a 2.29 ERA with a 48/13 K/BB in 55 innings for Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2014, followed by a 2.44 ERA and a 73/19 K/BB in 85 innings this year for High-A Fort Myers.
Hu is a 21-year-old right-hander listed at 6-1, 210 pounds. Despite his impressive statistical performance his stock with scouts is not extremely high. He lacks the physical projection that teams want in a pitcher his age and is unlikely to gain much additional velocity. That said, he does throw 90-92 MPH (occasionally a bit higher) and the fastball plays up due to the contrast with his palmball.
Reports on the quality of this palmball vary: some observers say it is a very good, even excellent pitch, while others rate it as fringy at best. It has worked just fine against A-ball hitters. We need to see what happens at higher levels, but Hu has good command and a chance to be a workhorse fourth starter type, or perhaps a reliever.
Alexis Tapia, RHP: Alexis Tapia was signed out of Venezuela in 2012 and has performed very well in rookie ball. He posted a 3.20 ERA with a 36/6 K/BB in 45 innings in the Gulf Coast League in 2014, followed by a 3.82 ERA with a 33/7 K/BB in 33 innings for Elizabethton in the Appalachian League this year.
Tapia is a 19-year-old 6-2, 190 pound right-hander. Reports are vague at this time but point to intriguing physical projectability and good control for a pitcher his age. He has a sharp 101/18 K/BB in 122 innings at the rookie levels, numbers which back up the control reports.
Jepsen is a decent reliever and will help the Twins pen in the short run, but both Hu and Tapia are quite interesting and provide some potential long-term value. For the Rays, this is a good return for a 31-year-old relief arm. Hu in particular looks to me like a pitcher who is undervalued by traditional scouting assessment methods.