Friday, December 9, 2022

Rays Claim Yu Chang, Transfer Brandon Lowe To 60-Day IL

The Rays are claiming Yu Chang from the Pirates, tweet Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Pittsburgh designated the infielder for assignment last week. To create a spot on the 40-man roster, Tampa Bay transferred second baseman Brandon Lowe from the 10-day to the 60-day injured list.

Chang heads to his third organization of the season. A longtime member of the Cleveland farm system, the right-handed hitter saw action with the MLB club every year between 2019-22. Despite a decent prospect pedigree, Chang never secured regular playing time in a series of generally strong infields, and he struggled when he did find his name in the lineup. The Taiwan native hit only .208/.265/.372 with a lofty 28.5% strikeout rate over 358 plate appearances in Cleveland, bouncing on and off the active roster for his first three years.

That shuffle exhausted all of Chang’s minor league option years, and the Guardians were left to carry him on the big league roster or take him off the 40-man this season. They kept him in the big leagues for a couple months but eventually designated him for assignment in late May. Pittsburgh acquired him for cash considerations a few days later, but Chang continued to scuffle during his month in the Steel City.

Through 18 games as a Pirate, Chang hit .135/.237/.212 with a 42.4% strikeout percentage (18 in 49 plate appearances). The Bucs quickly moved on, and the Rays become the next team to take a low-risk shot to see if they can unlock some of his upside. Chang appeared among Baseball America’s ranking of Cleveland’s top 30 prospects each season from 2015-21, drawing praise for his plate discipline, serviceable power and ability to play all around the infield. As he’s reached the upper levels, however, Chang has shown an alarming propensity for swinging and missing.

It’s possible Chang’s stay in Tampa Bay also proves brief. Because he’s out of options, he has to stick on the active roster or again be designated for assignment. The Rays have a fair bit of infield depth, with Wander Franco ensconced at shortstop and the hot-hitting isaac paredes bouncing between second and third base. Yandy Diaz is on hand as a corner option, while forming top prospects Taylor Walls and Vidal Brujan can cover virtually anywhere on the dirt. Each of Walls and Bruján has struggled at the plate this season and do have options remaining, however, so the Rays could decide to send either player back to Triple-A Durham once Chang reports to the team.

The infield mix will only become deeper once Lowe is able to make his return. Tampa Bay’s starting second baseman has been out since May 16 while battling a stress reaction in his lower back. Today’s transfer rules him out for 60 days from that initial placement, meaning he’ll be eligible to return right around the All-Star Break.

Lowe progressed to taking batting practice last week, but manager Kevin Cash noted at the time he was still a ways from returning to MLB action (Topkin link). He’ll surely need to head out on a minor league rehab assignment before stepping back into the big league lineup, so the decision to move him to the 60-day IL isn’t a surprise.

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