This is one in a series of stories breaking down PBN’s Top 30 Pittsburgh Pirates prospects.
When right-handed pitcher Po-Yu Chen joined the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization in 2020, there was certainly a lot of intrigue with the native of Taiwan.
The Pirates signed the right-hander to a $1.25 million bonus as an amateur free agent. Pittsburgh ensured they had enough intentional funds to sign him by acquiring additional bonus pool money after sending pitching prospects Domingo Robles and Connor Loeprich to the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles, respectively.
While Chen has shown flashes of being really good at times, he hasn’t shown much consistency as a Pirates’ farmhand,
In 2021 between rookie ball and Single-A Bradenton, Chen pitched well. In his first season of professional baseball, he combined 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA across 10 starts. On display was Chen’s solid control and ability to miss bats. Most of that success, however, came in the rookie league.
The following season, Chen took a step back while spending the whole year with Bradenton. The right-hander made 22 starts and went 4-8 with a 4.58 ERA. Still, Chen limited free passes and collected a healthy number of strikeouts — 103 in 98.1 innings.
This year, Chen spent the whole season with High-A Greensboro, which is part of the hitter-friendly South Atlantic League. At times, Chen was really good. At other times, he wasn’t. In total, Chen finished the 2023 campaign 5-8 with a 4.44 ERA in a career-high 119.1 innings.
Chen’s strong control is a positive sign, but it also hurts him at times. A lot of the strikes Chen throws aren’t quality ones, and he’ll need to show better command in the zone if he wants to take the next step. The right-hander will also look to improve what is considered a below-average fastball.
The good news for Chen is that there are a lot of qualities to like about who he is as a pitcher. He routinely puts up solid strikeout totals, averaging 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings in his career. Prior to pitching in a tough league this season, he also did a good job of preventing home runs.
If Chen makes the jump to Double-A Altoona to begin next season, it should serve as a better indicator of his true prospect status. Not only will he be facing better competition by climbing the ladder, but he’ll pitch in less of an offensive-oriented league.
2024 will be a big year for our No. 22 Pirates’ prospect.