For the past several years, the middle infield has been an area of the Dodgers‘ system where there is not an overwhelming number of elite prospects, especially at the lower levels of the farm.
At the top of the infielder rankings sits shortstop and reigning Minor League Player of the year Gavin Lux, but then there is plenty of daylight. Farther down in the middle of the pack are players like Errol Robinson, Omar Estevez and the newly acquired Jeter Downs, who are trying to prove that they are worthy of being among the highest rated.
However, there are a few infield prospects who are just beginning to climb the organizational ladder, and because of the scarcity of talent in the lower levels of the system, they may find their ascents to be much faster then say an outfielder or a starting pitcher.
One such player is Marcus Chiu.
The 22-year-old resident of Novato was selected by Los Angeles in the 15th round of the 2017 MLB draft. He played two seasons at the College of Marin and was considering enrolling at the University of Nevada before he got the call from the Dodgers.
The right-handed hitting Chiu played high school ball at San Marin High, where he hit for an overall .397 average and a .551 OBP, eventually earning MCAL Player of the Year honors. During his two-year collegiate career, he hit .332 while setting a single season record at Marin in 2017 for long balls with 13.
After the draft, he was quickly ushered to the Arizona League Dodgers where he slashed .297/.384/.459 with three homers and 15 doubles over 45 games. Hampered by several injuries in 2018, Chiu was still able to put together a respectable season across two levels of the farm, hitting a combined .231/.349/.441 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI in just 69 games. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder also swiped 12 bases in 14 chances.
Marcus was kind enough to sit down and chat with us over the weekend, discussing all things baseball, while sharing a little insight regarding his outlook for 2019.
We started out talking about his childhood. Chiu quickly confirmed the rumors of him being a San Francisco fan as a youngster were true.
“Barry Bonds was my favorite player,” he said. “Growing up, I was a huge Giants fan. Going to the games was my favorite thing to do.”
Like many of the prospects in the organization, Chiu has versatility written all over him. Between Ogden and Great Lakes last year, he played all over the infield after primarily being a second baseman in college. Surprisingly, he told us that he enjoyed hit time at the hot corner the most.
“I feel most comfortable at third base,” he explained. “It’s a new position for me, but I love how hard the balls are hit and how little time you have to react. Nevertheless, I’m still quite comfortable moving around the entire infield.”
It’s tough to determine Chiu’s strengths by just looking at his stats. There are flashes of power, speed and solid glove work, but he confirmed to us that he believes his offensive abilities are the most imposing parts of his game.
“I would say hitting and hitting for power are the strongest aspects of my game,” he explained.
While many fans don’t realize how much player skills differ at each level of the farm, we chatted briefly about the degree of competition, specifically between the Arizona League, the Pioneer League and the Midwest League.
“It was a pretty big jump from the AZL to Great Lakes,” Chiu confirmed. “Players were more consistent and pitchers had a lot more movement. It took me a little bit to find a groove, but once I found it, I felt confident in myself.”
Find a groove he did. Chiu hovered above the .300 mark for all of August. While with the Raptors, he went 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBI against Great Falls on August 20, boosting his season average at that point past .330. Five games later against Orem, he went 3-for-5 with a triple and five RBI to further exhibit his offensive prowess.
Moving along, we talked a bit about his teammates, and he was quick to point out his relationship with Eric Peterson, a 25-year-old infielder in the Dodgers system who played across three levels of the Los Angeles farm last year.
“He’s somebody who’s very understanding. He always pushes me to be the best person and player I can be,” Chiu said. “You can talk to him about anything whether it’s baseball or life.”
Looking ahead to 2019, Chiu told us his main goal was to stay healthy after noting how an injury to his throwing hand kept him sidelined for two months last year.
“My goal for 2019 is to have a healthy season. I had a lot of setbacks last year due to injury and this year one of my biggest priorities is to keep my body healthy.”
Entering his second full year in the organization, Chiu will likely begin the season in Low-A ball, but if he stays fit and has the opportunity to flash his skills in the batters’ box, a promotion to High-A ball at some point in the year wouldn’t be out of the question.
(Follow Marcus on Twitter: @marcus_chiu)
(Photo Credit: The Azul)