Li-Jen Chu participating in this year's Arizona Fall League speaks to his impressive development on and off the field.Signed out of Taiwan in November 2012, Chu immediately embraced the opportunity to learn English upon entering Cleveland's system, and it wasn't long before he had adopted a nickname (of sorts)."When I
Li-Jen Chu participating in this year's Arizona Fall League speaks to his impressive development on and off the field.
Signed out of Taiwan in November 2012, Chu immediately embraced the opportunity to learn English upon entering Cleveland's system, and it wasn't long before he had adopted a nickname (of sorts).
"When I was here first year we had to take English class," said Chu. "The teacher gave me the name, 'Sam.' I liked it, so I keep using it."
Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams
Chu's willingness to go by either name is reflective of a personality that's made him an endearing presence on every team he's played for.
"I feel more friendly," said the 24-year-old catcher. "You have an American name and also a Taiwanese name…so people can call you 'Sam' or 'Chu.' I feel a lot of fun with that."
"My personality is not shy," he added, "so I talk to a lot of teammates. I have a lot of fun with those guys."
That's not to say Chu didn't face challenges along the way as he acclimated himself to pro ball in the United States.
"The first year was a little bit tough," he admitted, "but now I feel used to it … comfortable talking to pitchers. Your job is to communicate with the pitchers and know the situations, and if you know that everything comes easily."
Things started to come more easily for Chu in 2017, his fourth professional season but his first true full-season campaign. In 125 games at Class A Lake County, the right-handed hitter slashed .269/.338/.426 with a career-high 17 home runs.
Chu's success earned him more aggressive assignments this past season, with the backstop seeing time at Class A Advanced Lynchburg, Double-A Akron and even Triple-A Columbus. Altogether, he hit .272/.340/.425 between the three stops, with 10 home runs and 22 doubles in 99 games. Defensively, Chu threw out 25 percent of attempted basestealers, up from 18 percent the previous year.
Now playing in the Arizona Fall League, Chu has been reunited with fellow Indians prospect and Taiwan native Yu Chang on the Glendale Desert Dogs.
"I've known him since I was 9 or 10 years old. We were roommates at 15 when [Taiwan] played Chinese Taipei, so we're good friends, good brothers," Chu said.
Expanded cuisine options has been another perk of playing in the Fall League for Chu, who's already found a go-to place for Taiwanese food in Mesa, Ariz.
"It wasn't easy finding Taiwanese food in different cities," said Chu. "Only hamburgers."
Indians hitters in the Fall League
Yu Chang, SS/3B -- Spending his age-22 season with Triple-A Columbus, Chang produced a .256/.330/.411 line with 13 home runs while playing the bulk of his 127 games as a shortstop. He's improved defensively in every season and committed just nine errors in 94 games at short with Columbus. Now 23, Chang is back in the Fall League this year after hitting .304 over 15 games with Mesa in 2017.
Connor Marabell, OF -- The 24-year-old outfielder hit .296/.341/.481 with 11 homers and 23 doubles over 89 games at Double-A Akron en route to midseason All-Star honors in the Eastern League. But after receiving a promotion to Triple-A Columbus, Marabell batted just .214 with a .584 OPS in 31 games.
Indians pitchers in the Fall League
Justin Garza, RHP -- The 2015 eighth-rounder landed on the disabled twice in 2018 but pitched well when healthy, registering a 3.71 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 22 walks in 68 innings (16 starts) at Lynchburg. He sits around 92-93 mph with his fastball and features a pair of secondary offerings in a slider and changeup.
Rob Kaminsky, LHP -- In his third full season since joining the Indians via a trade from St. Louis in July 2015, Kaminsky once again was beset by injuries and didn't begin his season in earnest until mid-June. Once he got going, the 24-year-old southpaw pitched to a 2.84 ERA with four saves and 69 percent ground-ball rate over 28 1/3 innings (25 appearances) between Lynchburg and Akron.
Jared Robinson, RHP -- Robinson was chosen for the Fall League after a breakout regular season that concluded with a Double-A appearance after he'd posted a 2.65 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 51 innings for Lynchburg. The 2014 11th-rounder has prototypical bullpen stuff in a mid-90s fastball that he pairs with a hard slider.
Dalbert Siri, RHP -- Signed out of the Dominican Republic in November 2014, Siri tallied a career-high 15 saves while posting a 2.45 ERA and .182 BAA out of the bullpen for Class A Advanced Lynchburg. The 23-year-old righty has power stuff in the form of a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider, and together they helped him rack up 71 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.