Ray Chang has already proven that he’s a better baseball player than anyone in a nation of 1.3 billion people. His next challenge is to prove he’s good enough to be a Twin.
Chang played for China in the last World Baseball Classic. He was born in Kansas City Missouri, but the rules of the WBC allowed participants to play for the countries of their parents’ birth. If his stats are any judge, he was hands-down the team MVP. His .455/.455/.818 slash line led China in all three categories, and he hit the only home run in the tournament for Team China. If China had a team full of Ray Changs, they would have easily won the tournament.
Chang has had to earn his shot at the Major Leagues the hard way. Growing up, he often worked as a busboy in his parents’ restaurant. He went undrafted out of Rockhurst University, but the Padres offered him a chance, and he took it. He eventually moved on to the Pirates organization.
By the time he made it to AAA as a 24 year old, Chang had carved out a niche as a very rare type of player: a middle infielder who can get on base. In 2009 he had a .383 OBP at AA, and in 2010 it was .384. He signed with the Twins last year, and if he’d been able to reproduce that success, it’s likely that he would have earned consideration for a late season callup. But instead, Chang slumped to a .271/.323/.368 line between New Britain and Rochester.
At age 28, Chang will come to Spring Training trying to regain his 2010 momentum. He’ll be wearing jersey #83 – digits more suited to a wide receiver than a shortstop. But he can take comfort that another man who wears 83, Patriots receiver Wes Welker, became a star even though he too was undrafted.
Middle infield is a major position of need for the Twins. Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla will definitely make the team, but after that it gets murky. Trevor Plouffe has migrated to the outfield, Tsuyoshi Nishioka may or may not get sent to the minors, and Brian Dozier may or may not be ready for the Show just yet. Like the rest of his fellow non-roster invitees, Chang is a big longshot to make the team out of Spring Training, but the need at his position is such that he should at least have an opportunity to impress Ron Gardenhire and the coaching staff.
It helps that Chang is versatile. Shortstop has always been his primary position, but he has also played extensively at third base and second base. He’s got seven games at first base under his belt, and he even pitched a couple of innings in 2008 and 2009 at AA without giving up any runs. Along with on-base skills, versatility is Chang’s most impressive tool. He has never been a stolen base threat, and power isn’t a big plus for Chang, either, though he did hit 30 doubles in 2010.
This is just the latest in the long line of non-roster invitee profiles. When all is said and done, Puckett’s Pond will have written about all 25 of them, so keep checking back! You can find the previous profiles here.