Fans who aren’t overly familiar with professional baseball in Taiwan often wonder what level of ball is played here in the CPBL. Well, when it comes to the average level of talent, it’s certainly not comparable to the MLB. Most would also agree that it is below the level of baseball that is played in Japan’s NPB and slightly below that of South Korea’s KBO.
But the top-end talent in the CPBL, at least on the offensive side of things, is world class.
“I think there are a few players in the league that certainly could play in the major leagues,” said Chinatrust Brothers pitcher Andy Sisco. “That having been said, would they be first-tier, All-Star ballot type players, no. But I think they could play at the major league level.”
There aren’t many who know the league better than Sisco. He’s a four-year veteran of the CPBL, having spent 2013-15 with the EDA Rhinos before signing with the Brothers earlier this year. In total, the 33-year-old has pitched in 372 innings in Taiwan. He also had more than just a cup of coffee in the MLB, having appeared in 151 career games with the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox.
Sisco did point out that he believes the overall level of play in the CPBL to be somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A baseball in the States. But he believes there are a few guys in the league with the talent to crack an MLB 25-man roster, starting with a couple of his teammates.
“I think if you look at the league leader in home runs on this team, Chiang Chih Hsien [No. 11 蔣智賢], he’s definitely a guy. He was right there [referring to the fact that Chiang played at the Triple-A level in the Seattle Mariners organization]. I certainly would put him in that category. Maybe Lin Chih Sheng [No. 32 林智勝] as well. And Lin Hung Yu [No. 11 林泓育] from the Lamigo club.”
The veteran lefty also had high praise for a couple of guys he used to play with while down in Kaohsiung with the Rhinos.
“Hu Chin Lung [No. 15 胡金龍] was a major league player [with the L.A. Dodgers and New York Mets] and came back because he had an injury and needed surgery. I think he would still be in the major leagues had he stayed. Possibly Kao Kuo Hui [No. 28 高國輝], the home run leader from last year, would be another type of player who could play in the major leagues. So right there that’s four or five players in a four-team league, I think that’s pretty impressive.”
Taking in a local game this year might also give fans the chance to see a future major leaguer in Lamigo Monkeys rookie outfielder Wang Po Jung [No. 9 王柏融], who is currently leading the CPBL in hits with 79 and stolen bases with 12. Still just 22 years of age, Wang is dominating a league made up mostly of veterans and looks like he has all the tools to contribute at the highest level of baseball.
“I think he definitely projects as a major league player. He hits for power, he hits to all fields, he can hit a good fastball. He’s not a guy who can be overpowered,” Sisco said about last year’s fourth-overall pick in the CPBL draft. “He can run and he plays good defense, he’ll run the ball down in the outfield. So yeah, I certainly think as he develops he would be considered a major league prospect.”
Wang signed his entry-level contract in 2015, meaning that he won’t be able to file for international free agency until the end of the 2017 season, assuming that he does receive international interest and decides he wants to try and make the move to play abroad. That means baseball fans here in Taiwan have at least another 1.5 seasons to enjoy watching a youngster who looks primed to be the nation’s next superstar.
As a four-team league on this small island, Taiwan’s professional baseball league tends to fly under the radar in baseball circles. The overall level of play may not compare with the top few leagues in the world, but without question, there is some major league talent in the CPBL.