On Saturday June 24th, the Boston Red Sox promoted infielder Tzu-Wei Lin to the major league roster. He appeared in both the Saturday and Sunday contests against the Los Angeles Angels but has yet to collect an at-bat. Let’s see what he offers for the future.
Lin was signed by the Red Sox as a free agent out of Taiwan in 2012, receiving a large bonus of $2,050,000. At the time he was projected as a strong defensive player with a chance to hit for average. He did not hit much at the lower levels, just .226 in the New York-Penn League in 2013 and .229 in the South Atlantic League in 2014 without much in the way of power or special on-base skills.
He improved in the Carolina League in 2015, hitting .281/.333/.367, but slumped again on promotion to Double-A Portland in 2016, sagging to a .223/.287/.293 mark. He was hitting much better on a return engagement to Portland before his promotion to the majors, hitting .302/.379/.491 with 20 walks and 27 strikeouts in 159 at-bats. This is the best stretch of sustained production in his entire career.
Lin is listed at 5-9, 160, a left-handed hitter born February 15th, 1994. As anticipated, his glove has turned out quite well: he has the range, hands, reliability and arm strength to be a quality shortstop. He’s also seen time at second and third base to enhance his versatility, and has even performed well in limited action in center field.
He runs well and is a stolen base threat but has never hit much before this year. Past scouting reports noted a mechanically sound swing and a decent batting eye but an extreme lack of power held him back. Until the last few months he looked like a utility player as a result. He’s already hit five homers this spring, a career high.
Lin is only 23 and it is possible he just needed to mature physically. That said, 48 games in Double-A isn’t really enough to over-ride the last five years and it would be nice to see what would happen in Triple-A before pushing him into a larger major league role.
All things considered, Lin is certainly in the roster picture due to his defense and if the surge in hitting is real, he could be more than a bench guy. Keep an eye on him.