The Oakland A’s are starting to become active in free agency, at least to a degree. They have made several minor league signings over the past few days, but none have the same level of interest as the signing of Chen Zhang-Ao Zhuang.
Zhuang is the second mysterious pitcher that the A’s have signed over the past few offseasons. They had inked Shohei Tomioka to a contract during the 2019-20 international signing period, signing him from the Japanese independent leagues. The A’s, understandably, are scouring every possible option to find potential hidden gems.
Who is Chen Zhang-Ao Zhuang?
As was the case with Tomioka, there is little information available about Zhuang. He does not have any professional experience, but he also dominated for Taiwan in the U-23 Baseball World Cup.
Zhuang has the type of stuff that would intrigue the A’s. He has a fastball that typically sits in the lower 90s, but can touch 95 MPH. His splitter, thrown in the upper 70s to low 80s, may well be his best pitch, one that can miss bats and generate plenty of grounders. Zhuang’s changeup has solid fade and good separation from the fastball. He also throws a slider and a curve, although the two pitches have a tendency to merge into one offering.
At 21 years old, he also has a chance to develop even more velocity as his frame fills out and he adds strength. He did seemingly have the ability to reach back for more velocity when needed during the U-23 Cup, but the A’s would likely want his fastball to sit in the mid 90s instead of being able to just get there.
Zhuang could also represent another area where the A’s are looking to find an advantage. Since they are not going to spend at the level of most other major league teams, trying to find these hidden international gems could be the latest market inefficiency. If the A’s are able to strike gold with Zhuang, Tomioka, or any future signing of that ilk, these moves will pay for themselves thousands of times over.
The Oakland A’s have signed another international man of mystery in Chen Zhang-Ao Zhuang. They are hoping to have found another hidden gem.