Cleveland Indians infielder Yu Chang brought a reputation for carrying a big-stick into the 2021 campaign.
Unfortunately, tales of his strength were relegated to last July’s summer camp, when he was consistently taking some of the Tribe’s best starters deep.
You can understand why I, and many Tribe fans were ready to discard Chang after an abysmal first half of the season. I never expected him to be the second coming of Lou Boudreau, but he was incredibly bad throughout the first half of the season.
Then, there was the defensive mess the Tribe put him in. Chang came up as a short stop and is capable of playing second base…so Cleveland gave him a first baseman’s glove. Notably, he had a blunder earlier in the season when he fielded a ground ball and in an attempt to turn the double play, hit a runner in the back.
Add it all up, and Chang was batting .176 during the first half. That power we wanted to see? Chang slugged .287.
Cleveland Indians: Yu Chang turns it around
But since Chang was recalled on Aug. 13, he’s been a different player. In 14 games, he’s batting .275 (.962 OPS). He’s hit four homers after hitting two before the All-Star break. His OPS+ jumped from a first-half total of 38, to 153!
Naturally, this is an extremely small sample, but at the very least, Chang is showing a pulse, much like Bradley Zimmer is doing in right field. Zimmer is one of a few players playing their way into the 2022 lineup.
Zimmer and Chang have to realize that this is the end of the line and if they’re going to be a part of the organization moving forward, they’ve got to produce. There’s a glut of middle infielders waiting for their turn, which puts pressure on Chang.
There can be no letting up for the native of Taiwan. He’s out of options and with talent sitting behind him, the Tribe can’t afford to give him a roster spot, like they did with Jake Bauers in April.
Traditionally, the Indians don’t like starting off prized prospects on Opening Day, so if Chang plays well the rest of this year and then has a good camp, it’s possible he can continue to be a part of the club.
But make no mistake. He has to produce. It’s that simple at this point and for now, at least, he’s getting the job done.