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Chang's 'scary' power makes Carrasco a fan

@MandyBell02
July 11, 2020

CLEVELAND -- When Yu Chang hit two big flies earlier this week, he was asked whether his power was an underrated part of his game. He answered by explaining that he just had lucky days, and he credited the wind as the reason why the balls carried over the fence.

CLEVELAND -- When Yu Chang hit two big flies earlier this week, he was asked whether his power was an underrated part of his game. He answered by explaining that he just had lucky days, and he credited the wind as the reason why the balls carried over the fence.

Three home runs later, it may be a little clearer that Chang was being humble.

Chang's power week began with a homer off Carlos Carrasco in a simulated game on Monday afternoon, and it came full circle on Saturday, when he launched another off Carrasco in an intrasquad scrimmage. Despite adding yet another blast to his stats sheet, his team (the visitors) fell short of the home team, 7-4.

“This guy is scary, man,” Carrasco said of Chang. “I've got two homers from him already. Tonight, five days ago. … It's really good, man. I can tell. It's really good. He's got some power. He's seeing the ball really good.”

After Monday’s home run against Carrasco, Chang launched another homer off Zach Plesac in a simulated game on Wednesday. In the Tribe’s first intrasquad matchup, he recorded another bomb off Shane Bieber and kept the momentum going into Friday, when he smashed another off Scott Moss.

“I mean, I know at some point you don’t hit a home run every night, but to this point I think he has,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I’ve said it a lot of different ways, but I know you can’t make all of your evaluations on Spring Training or [Summer Camp], but I love watching our guys do well, regardless of when it is or where. And he certainly has swung the bat really, really well.”

If the season would have started on March 26, Chang was not the leading candidate to earn the utility role. Mike Freeman and Christian Arroyo were in a tight race to win the job, and there was a chance that both could have been carried on the Opening Day roster. Now, Chang’s recent power surge has caused some eyebrows to raise.

Chang is blocked by Francisco Lindor at shortstop, his main position. The 24-year-old can also play second and third, but his defensive versatility as a utility man may not quite match up with Freeman and Arroyo just yet. The Indians prefer Arroyo at third rather than at short, but they also have Freeman, who can play all infield and outfield positions if needed. The two still appear to be the most likely options as backup infielders for the 30-man roster, but that certainly won’t discredit Chang’s performance thus far at the plate.

While baseball was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Chang traveled back home to Taiwan and continued a normal offseason schedule. The only difference with his routine was that he spent extra time working on making mental adjustments to help his mindset once the 2020 season resumed. His work has seen some immediate results, as he looks to continue his offensive consistency over the next 13 days leading up to Opening Day.

“I feel very good right now,” Chang said earlier this week. “I can see the ball very clear, at least for this week. All I want is to keep doing it at the same pace and work on the normal stuff.”

Because the Indians are only eight days into workouts, the team isn’t looking to make any final roster decisions based on a limited sample size. However, the excitement for Chang’s future is only growing. According to MLB Pipeline, Chang is the Tribe’s No. 21 prospect, and he boasts raw power as his best tool. Whether or not the team saw it firsthand in the past, the Indians now have a solid idea of just what that raw power can be as he continues to develop.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.