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2018 Red Sox top prospect voting: Tzu-Wei Lin is out to prove 2017 was no fluke

Tzu-Wei Lin is number 19

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

After being forced to break a tie in the last iteration of this exercise, the vote was much more convincing this time around. It wasn’t a blowout by any means, but the other end of the tie from earlier in the week won relatively safely this time around. Tzu-Wei Lin took an early lead in the voting and never relented despite a late push behind him, and he comes in as our number 19 prospect.

It can be easy to forget now, but Tzu-Wei Lin was a relatively high-profile international signing way back in 2012. He wasn’t a major headline grabber a la Rusney Castillo or Yoan Moncada, but he wasn’t insignificant either. The infielder came to Boston out of Taiwan for an impressive $2.05 million signing bonus in the summer of 2012 and ended up getting some time in the Gulf Coast League that summer. He wasn’t great with a sub-.700 OPS, but he was an international player coming over to play in the States for the first time as an 18-year-old. The expectations weren’t high. Except, things never really got better. In spent the entire next season in Lowell, then the entire 2014 season in Greenville. In 2015 he split time between Salem and Portland, and then in 2016 he was back in Double-A for the whole year. In all of that time at all of those different levels, Lin never posted an OPS above .698. Sure, he provided some value with his glove, versatility and speed, but he wasn’t a legitimate prospect and that’s tough to swallow for someone who got over $2 million for a signing bonus.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

After all of that, there wasn’t really much of an expectation at all for Lin. At this point his signing bonus was a sunk cost and he was an organizational player who would be good for pitching prospects lucky enough to have him in their infield and that’s about it. No one was expecting him to be a real major-league contributor, much less in the coming season. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. Lin unlocked some sort of deep-hidden secret for his game at the plate and broke out in a shocking way in 2017. He played 48 games in Portland and hit pretty much the entire time, ending his time in Double-A with a .302/.379/.491 line. That, along with unbelievably poor production at third base at the major-league lever for the Red Sox led to one of the most shocking promotions in recent franchise history. Lin went from Portand to Boston, and he held his own at the highest level. Sure, a lot of his major-league success at the plate was boosted by good fortune, but that combined with his breakout at Double-A was reason for legitimate excitement. He eventually went back down to the minors and struggled against Triple-A pitching, which took a little bit of the shine off his breakout.

On the scouting side, some of it is the same as it’s always been for Lin. As much as the offensive breakout was exciting, he’s still a player carried by the other parts of the game. He’s a plus defensive infielder at all three infield spots besides first base — he could be plus there, too, but he’s never done it — and he’s been getting some time in center field. It’s fair to expect him to be a little unpolished in the outfield, but he has the athleticism and skillset to be good there as well. Lin is also a solid runner who can provide fine, though not elite, value on the bases. Offensively, there is more reason for optimism than there was a year ago at this time. A fixed swing led to a better hit tool, and while it’s not elite it will now play at the major-league level. He won’t provide power, though, so he has to make contact consistently to be a major-league player.

He’ll get his chance in 2018 to prove that last year was no fluke, too. It seems incredibly unlikely, though I suppose not impossible, that Lin makes the Opening Day roster. Instead, he’ll start his season in Pawtucket and wait for an opening to emerge in the majors. In the meantime, he will have to continue to prove he can be a versatile force with the glove and at least a passable player at the plate. The Red Sox already have a glove-only player in Deven Marrero. From Lin, they are looking for a glove-first player who still has some upside at the dish.

Here is our list so far:

  1. Jason Groome
  2. Michael Chavis
  3. Tanner Houck
  4. Bryan Mata
  5. Jalen Beeks
  6. Alex Scherff
  7. Sam Travis
  8. Mike Shawaryn
  9. Brian Johnson
  10. Josh Ockimey
  11. Cole Brannen
  12. Bobby Dalbec
  13. Darwinzon Hernandez
  14. C.J. Chatham
  15. Jake Thompson
  16. Roniel Raudes
  17. Hector Velazquez
  18. Danny Diaz
  19. Tzu-Wei Lin

We only have one spot left on our list. As always, head down into the comments and “rec” the comment corresponding the player for whom you’d like to vote. Make sure you’re a member of the blog before you do so of course. Additionally, if there is a player you’d like to vote for who is not listed, leave a comment of your own saying “Vote for Player X here”. That comment will count as his first vote. For more information on this system, scroll to the bottom of this post.