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Yu Chang a sleeper in suspect Indians farm system

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Taiwanese infielder has serious pop

MLB: Cleveland Indians-Media Day Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

News arrived from the annual GM meetings that the Cleveland Indians, two years removed from a 3-1 lead over the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, could be kinda-sorta selling.

After getting trounced by the Astros in a blink-and-you-missed-it ALDS sweep, the Indians front office is rumored to have put everyone but superstar infielders Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez on the trade block.

That includes a two-time Cy Young winner in Corey Kluber, three more extremely talented arms —Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer— and a host of veteran bats in the shopping cart.

Make no mistake. Cleveland is not panicking and entering a full rebuild. But they are actively looking to tinker with a roster that has won three consecutive AL Central titles.

Let’s look at their farm system.

The Indians placed a very solid five prospects in John’s 2018 Top 175. Two of them —former blue chipper Francisco Mejia (19) and Willi Castro (93)— were traded at the deadline for Brad Hand and Leonys Martin, respectively.

Shane Bieber (98) graduated while Triston McKenzie (24) and Bobby Bradley (140) remain in the system.

That system ranked right smack dab in the middle of John’s 2018 league-wide rankings, and still have McKenzie’s top prospect status to play with.

Bradley was okay in 2018. He hit 24 home runs for Double-A Akron with a .214 average. The power led to a promotion to Triple-A, where the first baseman hit three home runs with seven doubles and a pair of triples in 32 games.

Outfielders like Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin and Greg Allen all remain big league ideas. Zimmer has considerable talent but can’t stay healthy. Naquin also has trouble staying off the disabled list. Allen took a big leap last season but profiles as a speedy fourth outfielder.

Yu Chang, formerly going by Yu-Cheng Chang, was signed by the Indians out of Taiwan in 2013. He’s always had incredible power in his bat, worth keeping an eye on for that alone. He’s come along defensively at shortstop, also playing second base and third base with the outfield an option.

Given the crowded Cleveland depth chart (and the fact that a guy like Yandy Diaz is having trouble finding a spot), it’s a big plus for the 23-year old Chang to play as many positions as he can.

If, of course, he ends up long-term on an Indians team that will have an infield spot up for grabs. Whatever position between second and third base that Jose Ramirez doesn’t play has long-term availability for the moment.

Chang has an extremely impressive swing, recently hitting a two-run triple in the Arizona League’s Fall Stars Game. The Fall Stars Game was a quick respite from Arizona Fall League Action, where he had been swinging a hot bat.

In 18 games, he’s slashing .358/.405/.552 with three home runs, four doubles and 12 RBI. This comes on the heels of a decent regular season where he compiled a .256/.330/.411 line.

The power production was down (13 home runs) and he stole just four bases (on seven tries). It wasn’t a breakout campaign by any measure, but the eye test presents us with some undeniable intangibles.