Prior to the 2015 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks dipped into the world of international free agency by singing a pair of Cubans. Yasmany Tomas signed a hefty deal with the D-backs and immediately paid dividends as he had a solid rookie season. Pitcher Yoan Lopez had an uneven first season stateside but still is considered a top prospect. Another pitcher the team signed, this one from halfway around the world, didn’t have the name recognition of Tomas and Lopez but turned out to have one of the best seasons in the entire organization. Meet right-handed pitcher Wei-Chieh Huang.
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How he came to the organization: The D-backs signed Huang, now age 22 and who hails from Taiwan, in July 2014. He had pitched for National Taiwan University of Physical Education and Sport. According to Ben Badler at Baseball America, Huang featured a fastball that could get as high as 94 MPH with an an average slider. He also developed a changeup at age 17 while attending Kao-Yuan Tech High School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. For more on his background, take a look at this excellent article by Paul Johnson at the Chicago Tribune.
Minor League career: Huang, who is 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, spent some time with Arizona during Spring Training, pitching in some Minor League games. When camp broke, he was assigned to the Kane County Cougars of the Class A Midwest League. Back issues prevented Huang from making his debut until May 26th. He pitched extremely well from start one until the end of the season. He threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in his initial outing and gave up only three earned runs over his first five starts, a span of 31 2/3 innings. Huang was named to the Futures Game, where he retired the only two batters he faced. In 15 total appearances for the Cougars, including 12 starts, he went 7-3 with an ERA of 2.00. He allowed 58 hits and 16 walks over 76 2/3 innings while striking out 68.
Where he will be in 2016: Given the fact that he is older than most of the D-backs’ prospects, expect Huang to start at High Class A Visalia in the California League. If he pitches there like he did for Kane County, it is not out of the question that he gets promoted to Double A Mobile before the end of the year. If the Snakes’ pitching staff is ravaged by injury and riddled with ineffectiveness, will we see a Zack Godley-type jump to the Majors for Huang? Probably not but it wouldn’t be surprising to see that expected time of arrival of 2018 as per mlb.com to be moved up by a year.