2021 Wei Chuan Dragons Season Preview and Lineup Predictions

Recently, I posted a piece here on the site about the ideal lineups for each of the four returning CPBL teams. It was mostly a preview for the offenses as all they get set to compete for the title of Taiwan’s best ballclub once again in 2021. I think it went really well, and I was really happy with it – except for one problem. As you may have heard, there are now five teams in the CPBL following this winter’s expansion draft. Yes, the Wei Chuan Dragons are finally re-joining the league in proper fashion this season after spending a season getting ready for the step up.

If you can’t see the Tweet embedded there from CPBL Stats, the Dragons won the Future Series – so it’s safe to assume they’re (at least somewhat) ready for the jump to higher competition. It’s really impossible to know where they’ll finish at the moment; not only is the random-factor in any expansion process part of the fun, the CPBL is also one of the least predictable baseball leagues on the planet.

There’s also the problem in including the Dragons in that piece in that I personally didn’t watch much of the Dragons in 2020. I watched the majority of the 2020 CPBL season on Twitter, getting used to the primary four teams and focusing on that. So, I decided to ask a couple of people who know much more about the newest CPBL franchise than I do and see what their predictions for the starting lineup looked like. Without further ado…

What will the Wei Chuan Dragons batting order look like in 2021?

Short Answer: Something like this

I asked 靈芝草人 WeeMan, who runs the Twitter account “Wei Chuan Dragons USA,” an unofficial fan profile dedicated to following the team in English. He’s posted a Twitter thread in the recent days, highlighting the reasons for his picks in the lineup, though noted that the team has recently announced that Rosell Herrera will begin the season in the outfield.

  1. Wu Tung-Jung – 2B
  2. Rosell Herrera – SS
  3. Liu Chi-Hung – 3B
  4. Huang Po-Hao – DH* (Injured until mid-season)
  5. Tseng Tao-Jung – LF
  6. Chen Pin-Chieh – RF
  7. Chu Hsiang-Lin – 1B
  8. Lin Wang-Wei – CF
  9. Liu Shih-Hao – C

For detailed information on that lineup, you can click that Tweet embed and see the full thread.

Rob of CPBL Stats was also kind enough to give me information for the Dragons batting order, and his prediction looks a little bit different, but mostly the same. I’ll break down the differences after this:

  1. Chen Pin-Chieh – RF
  2. Wu Tung-Jung – 2B
  3. Liu Chi-Hung – 3B
  4. Rosell Herrera – CF
  5. Tseng Tao-Jung – DH
  6. Chu Hsiang-Lin – 1B
  7. Liu Shih-Hao – C
  8. Tseng Chuan-Sheng – SS
  9. Hung Wei-Han – LF

There’s quite a few notes here, so I’m going to break it down.

Notes:

  • Rob’s predictions mostly match, but there are a few differences, again mostly due to the Herrera’s status as an outfielder rather than a shortstop. Huang Po-Hao is out of Rob’s lineup in favour of Tseng Tao-Jung due to an injury that Huang will be recovering from until mid-season. Due to that, Tseng is a DH in Rob’s lineup rather than a LF. With Rosell Herrera moving to the outfield, Tseng Chuan-Sheng fits in at short.
  • The two also landed on different outfielders, with 靈芝草人 WeeMan preferring Wang Wei-Lin and Rob giving the edge to Hung Wei-Han.
  • Rob suggests that Kuo Tien-Hsin could enter the lineup as the season progresses. Both are extremely excited to see top prospect Liu Chi-Hung, who’s likely to be the team’s third baseman. with 靈芝草人 WeeMan mentioning that Liu hit over .400 for most of the season, leading the league with 75 RBI. Chu Hsiang-Lin was noted as another of the team’s top prospects.
  • I was admittedly a bit curious on why league stolen base leader Lin Hsiao-Cheng isn’t in either of their starting lineups, considering he hit .365 in 2020, but I suppose that speaks to the depth they have. 靈芝草人 WeeMan notes that he may be a strong pinch-run option for the team as a fourth outfielder type. Rob agrees that he’s likely to be their fourth or fifth outfielder. The consensus is that Chen Pin-Chieh, acquired in the expansion draft from the Guardians, appears to have passed Lin on the depth charts, at least to start the season.
  • Li Kai-Wei was another impressive player for the Dragons in 2020, but the Dragons have opted to build around veteran Wu Tung-Jung, who was another add from that expansion draft. Li could find his way into batting orders throughout the year, but there’s no obvious spot for him yet.
  • Elsewhere on the diamond, the Dragons used five catchers last season, with Chuan Hao-Wei, Chiang Chung-Yuan, Chiang Shao-Hung, Wei Chuan, and Niu Kai-Yeh all finding various amounts of playing time for the team.

    Chuan Hao-Wei led the way with 56 appearances, hitting .302. Wei Chuan hit .288 in 36 games for the team. Both appear likely to be passed on the depth chart by newcomer Liu Shih-Hao, who was selected from the Rakuten Monkeys.
  • Rosell Herrera will be the only foreign hitter in the league in 2021, and he’ll be in a unique situation having never played in the CPBL before (In fact, all of their foreign players are entirely new to the CPBL save for Bryan Woodall, who’s entering his seventh season in Taiwan).

What will the Wei Chuan Dragons pitching staff look like in 2021?

Here’s where the foreign players mostly show up: Brigham, Gagnon, and Tazawa are all new to the CPBL.

There’s a much clearer collective vision for what the pitching staff of the Dragons is going to look like. Wang Wei-Chung, the first overall pick in the 2020 CPBL Draft, signed a big contract with the team and is likely to be at the top of the rotation as the season starts. The left-hander has MLB and KBO experience, and will try to become the best local pitcher in the league in 2020.

Evaluations seem pretty even for Brigham and Gagnon, who will both be locked in as a part of the rotation, and Hsu Je-Hsi is figured to be a lock as well after he was a first round draft pick for the team in 2019. Eleven Sports CPBL commentator Jean An mentioned on Twitter that the Dragons have said they’ll go with Lo Chia-Jen as a starter as well, as does Rob.

It will be important for the team to monitor pitch counts for all four, considering two are new to the league (and foreign pitchers tend to eat a lot of innings) and the other two are younger arms that may be on a pitch count.

Veteran Bryan Woodall is going to start the season as a reliever (likely on the second team) after seeing his stats decline with the Fubon Guardians over the last couple of seasons, but he’s surely on their minds as a backup plan given his experience starting games and all of the factors relating to the four arms behind Wang Wei-Chung. The team appears likely to go with Herrera, Brigham, Gagnon, and Tazawa as their four foreign players with Woodall starting in the minor leagues.

Here’s a snapshot of the bullpen for the team, courtesy once again of 靈芝草人 WeeMan on Twitter.

As for where they’ll play, that’s going to vary.

For in-depth player profiles for the other four teams in CPBL, I wrote a 3000+ word preview of all four teams and how their starting lineups could look here. I’ll have more pitching information for the four other teams soon. Thanks to Rob and 靈芝草人 WeeMan for helping me figure out the Dragons ahead of this season. I’m fascinated to see how they’ll fit into the current CPBL puzzle.

Final Notes

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