SF Giants top prospects: No. 19 — RHP Kai-Wei Teng
Highest Level: Class-A (Augusta)
Acquired: Trade (2019)
Future-Value Grade: 40+
The Giants acquired Kai-Wei Teng alongside a pair of other prospects at the 2019 trade deadline from the Minnesota Twins. Teng threw 50.2 innings and posted an impressive 1.60 ERA for Minnesota’s Class-A affiliate. However, after joining the Giants at the same level for his final five starts of the season, Teng maintained a 1.55 ERA, saw a spike in his strikeout rate (8.7 to 12.1 K/9), and a dip in his walk rate (2.5 to 2.2 BB/9).
Teng had already maxed out his frame far earlier in his career than most, but his bulky 6’4” frame should be able to handle the rigors of starting. He has very consistent mechanics and an advanced command of his fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball. None of his pitches project as plus, but all have the potential to be average big-league offerings.
Pitchability prospects tend to perform really well in the lower minor leagues but then stall as they progress. Players like Clayton Blackburn and Edwin Escobar both come to mind. Teng comes with similar caveats, but his secondary pitches are more advanced than both Escobar and Blackburn at this point.
If it all comes together, Teng could be a consistent innings eater with a Joe Blanton-style ceiling. More likely, he ends up a fifth starter. He does share some similarities to former Giants reliever Yusmeiro Petit and perhaps could find success in a long-relief/swingman role if he’s unable to cut it in the rotation.
The Giants challenged Teng with an invitation to big-league camp, and given his profile, he could move quickly. However, it’s easy to forget that he has yet to pitch at High-A or above. Most have assumed that volatile prospects would bear the brunt of a lost minor-league season, but there’s a case to be made that prospects like Teng that thrive off precise mechanics and location could have more difficulty regaining their top form. Depending on where he starts the season, fans will get to see how that plays out.