JIN-DE JHANG, CATCHER
|Born: May 17, 1993
Height: 5′ 11″
Signed: Int. FA, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2011
How Acquired: Int. FA
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Jhang was considered one of the top prospects in Taiwan when the Pirates signed him. He’s always had good contact skills, but the power that the Pirates originally hoped he’d develop didn’t come. The value of his contact ability was limited by his lack of speed, reflected in a batting average on balls in play that dropped to .243 in 2016 and .235 in 2017. His stocky build probably never impressed scouts much, but he’s a solid defensive catcher with a good arm.
Jhang had a strong debut in the GCL, leading Baseball America to name him the league’s 19th best prospect. He shared the catching position with Wyatt Mathisen, starting about half the time and sometimes entering the game in the late innings, as Mathisen was coming back from a foot injury. Jhang showed a good arm, throwing out 28%, and moved well behind the plate. Despite his stocky build, he runs decently, posting 4.3/4.4 time to first. He hit well, showing very good plate discipline. He didn’t hit for a lot of power, but that could come later. He went 10-22 against LHPs. It’s a very small sample size but hopefully indicates he’ll be able to handle lefties.
Jhang was the primary catcher for Jamestown and had a good season. He had a solid season at the plate, making good contact and showing some power. His hitting did tail off over the course of the season: his monthly OPS went from .925 to .751 to .660. He struggled against LHPs, batting just 262/311/310 against them. Defensively, Jhang showed solid receiving skills and threw out an impressive 47% of opposing base stealers.
The Pirates were facing a roster crunch with their catchers, as Reese McGuire, Jhang and Wyatt Mathisen all should probably have been at West Virginia. The team decided to address the issue by moving Mathisen to third and jumping Jhang up to Bradenton, where he shared the catching duties with Jacob Stallings. Offensively, at least, Jhang had a hard time with the jump, as he had trouble with off speed stuff. He wasn’t totally overmatched, though, as he had a very low K rate. Jhang struggled especially in the first two months, hit well in the middle of the year, then slumped again. His OPS by month:
April — .514
He had just a .452 OPS against LHPs, although it was in only 84 plate appearances. He handled the jump better defensively, throwing out 32% of base stealers.
The Pirates faced another catching crunch in 2015, with Reese McGuire moving up to Bradenton and Jhang not being ready for AA. Jhang started the season as McGuire’s backup, but quickly hit his way into an expanded role, posting a .957 OPS in April. He ended up playing in 99 of the team’s 138 games, 46 as catcher and 53 as DH. He ultimately had a good year at the plate, especially considering the exceptionally anemic numbers league-wide in the Florida State League in 2015. Jhang struggled with LHPs, posting an OPS of .620 against them and .745 against RHPs. He hit significantly better on the road than at home, so McKechnie Field wasn’t the reason for his improvement at the plate. He threw out 22% of base stealers.
Jhang was eligible for the Rule 5 draft in the off-season, but wasn’t selected. He spent most of the year at Altoona and didn’t get a lot of playing time. For much of the year, he backed up Reese McGuire. The team didn’t even use him as a DH much. After McGuire was traded, Jhang still missed a lot of playing time due to Chris Stewart’s lengthy rehab. He did see a little time in AAA when the Pirates were shuffling catchers around due to injuries. When he played, Jhang did what he’s always done, which is to put the bat on the ball with remarkable consistency, hit for gap but not HR power, and post a fairly low walk rate. He made some strides against LHPs, hitting .318 against them, but with just one walk and one double so his OPS was only .660. Defensively, his receiving skills were decent and he threw well, with a 30% CS rate.
After spending much of his career behind more highly touted catchers, Jhang finally got the chance to be a regular with Altoona. Unfortunately, he missed the first seven weeks of the season with an oblique injury. Once he returned, it took him a long time to get going with the bat; he had a .260 OPS in eight games in May and .499 in June. He never really got going even after that and finished with uncharacteristically bad numbers, although he continued to make contact consistently. He did very well at controlling the running game, throwing out 47% of base stealers.
Jhang was slated to return to Altoona, but he was hampered all spring by an elbow injury suffered during winter ball. He joined the Curve in mid-May, but in late June was clipped by a bat in a backswing and missed a month. When he was able to play, he hit dramatically better than the previous year. Jhang ended up starting only 21 games behind the plate. He threw out three of 19 base stealers.
Jhang will be a free agent after the season. The Pirates have a lot of capable catchers at the upper levels, or headed there, so it seems unlikely that they’d try to bring him back.
|2018: Minor League Contract|
|Signing Bonus: $250,000
MiLB Debut: 2012
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: 2018
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 10, 2011: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent.|