Bear Grab Catfish: Cubs Sign Jen-Ho Tseng

Jen+Ho+TsengEarlier in the week I wondered why the Cubs hadn't signed Jen-Ho Tseng yet, and made the case that unlike Eloy Jimenez, the team had no reason to wait on Tseng. I speculated that the club was waiting to see whether more slot space could be acquired, and that Tseng might end up with the Twins if they could. Well, now that thought can be put to rest, as Jesse Sanchez of is reporting that the Cubs have signed the 18-year old Taiwanese righty for $1.625 million.

IFA Roundup

  BA TAM Bonus
Gleyber Torres (ss) 2 2 $1,700,000
Erling Moreno (rhp) 16 48 $800,000
Jefferson Mejia (rhp) NR* 22 $850,000
Johan Matos (c) NR NR $270,000
Jen-Ho Tseng 23 12 $1,625,000
Eloy Jimenez (of)** 1 1 $2,800,000?
*Baseball America didn't include any prospect in their top 30 who had previously been eligible to sign.
**Jimenez will officially sign next wex in the Dominican Republic

The Cubs have officially signed five under-23 international free agents, with a sixth, consensus #1 Eloy Jimenez, on to come on August 1st or 2nd. The club has not yet exceeded their bonus pool, and may still acquire more space in trade up until Jimenez officially signs. Including Jimenez and Tseng, the Cubs could technically acquire enough space to fall "merely" into the 10-15% penalty for next season, but given the market for pool space, that's not going to happen. What remains to be seen is whether the Cubs, resigned to the max penalty, will make a run at the few remaining big names on the market. Stay tuned for more on that here at OV.

土虱 Scouting Report

Tseng's nickname, which is used by default in the Taiwanese media, is Catfish. The resuscitation of this classic baseball nickname with a foreign flavor will be a welcome addition to the Cubs' farm system.


The star of the Taiwanese Junior National Team, Tseng has a wealth of international experience and is pretty physically mature for an 18-year-old. While that might mean there isn't a whole lot of projection left in his frame, he already brings plenty of now stuff. Tseng throws his fastball in the 91-93 mph range with a peak of 95. He compliments the pitch with a hard-breaking curveball, a potentially plus changeup, and a solid slider. He throws all of his pitches from a 3/4 delivery which gives them excellent movement and life. There's also a slight hesitation in his delivery like many pitchers from Asia, which adds deception. Tseng was the only high school player picked for Taiwan's squad in the 2013 WBC. He pitched an inning of relief against New Zealand striking out two and walking 1. In the 2012 World Junior Baseball Championship he was superb going 3-0, with a 0.84era and and 22 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings against Canada, South Korea and Colombia. Sources indicate his handlers could be looking for as much as 2mm.


At the end of last year, Tseng looked like a surefire million-dollar prospect who could have ranked No. 1 overall on this list, and some scouts felt would have been a first-round pick had he been born in the United States. But Tseng has gone backward this spring in terms of his stuff, control and game performance.

Tseng has shown he could dominate his peers and foreign professionals while pitching for Taiwan’s national team. He appeared in six of Taiwan’s eight games at the 18U World Championship last September in South Korea, with a 22-2 K-BB mark in 21 innings and an ERA of 0.84. He saw brief action in the World Baseball Classic qualifier in November. Then he threw six shutout innings in a key 7-0 win over South Korea in the Asian Championship in Taiwan in December. He pitched in the WBC in March as an 18-year-old, where he understandably struggled in a pair of relief appearances, but his stuff and control weren’t sharp.

Tseng simply hasn’t been as electric this year. At his best last year, he pitched at 89-92 mph and touched 95, and at times earned plus grades for his curveball and changeup, with some scouts grading the changeup as a potential plus-plus pitch. He showed the ability to throw his curve for strikes consistently with tight spin and mixed in an average slider. At the WBC, his fastball parked in the high 80s, his breaking ball was loose and his control was erratic. Scouts who have watched him since then have said his stuff and command are still down. Some have expressed concern about Tseng’s durability due to his frame and mechanics, and others think his usage could be the culprit and that his stuff could bounce back after he signs.