On Sunday the Tampa Bay Rays promoted right-handed pitcher Chih-Wei Hu from Triple-A Durham to the major league roster. Hu replaces Tommy Hunter on the roster, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained calf. Here’s a quick take on the newest member of the Rays staff.
The Minnesota Twins originally signed Hu, inking him for $220,000 out of Taiwan in 2012. He was successful in the Minnesota system, notably in 2015 when he posted a 2.44 ERA with a 73/19 K/BB in 85 innings for High-A Fort Myers. He was traded to the Rays in July ‘15 for Kevin Jepsen. There have been some second thoughts about this for the Twins, with Jepsen long out of the picture and Hu now reaching the majors as a very good prospect.
Hu ranked seventh on the 2017 Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 pre-season prospects list with the following commentary:
7) Chih-Wei Hu, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 23, signed by Twins out of Taiwan in 2013; stolen by Rays in Kevin Jepsen trade in ’15; posted 2.59 ERA in 143 innings in Double-A with 107/36 K/BB; fastball in low-90s but mixes well with broad arsenal including change-up, palmball, slider, curve; throws strikes, excellent pitching instincts; should be ready sometime this year as possible fourth starter but should not be under-estimated. ETA 2017
As noted in the comment Hu was very strong in Double-A last year and has held his own in his first three Triple-A starts, posting an 11/3 K/BB in 16 innings with a 3.94 ERA.
Hu is 6-1, 230, born November 4, 1993. Part of the reason the Twins were willing to trade him was lack of a hot fastball, but his velocity has picked up over the last couple of seasons. He was clocked as high as 97 MPH last season and while he works more commonly around 90-91, the fastball plays up due to his wide selection of secondary pitches.
His best pitch is an excellent straight-change-up, but he also has a curve, a slider/cutter hybrid, and a palmball he uses as an alternative to the change-up. He throws strikes with everything and has a mature mound presence.
Hu is generally viewed as a fourth starter but that may be under-selling him.