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Aroldis Chapman: big talent, but a bigger risk

Dec 2, 2009, 6:40 PM EDT

Melissa Seguara at Sports Illustrated has a fascinating in-depth look at Aroldis Chapman, suggesting both his undeniable promise and some less-than-well-reported weaknesses.

Of interest: despite the stories he tells, Chapman’s removal from the 2008 Olympic team may not have been punishment for an earlier, unsuccessful defection attempt. Rather, he probably pitched his way off the team as the result of “extreme wildness” and low confidence during a low-powered tournament in Havana the previous June.

His career walk rate in Cuban play — where the strike zones are bigger and the swingers freer — is 5.37. That’s worse than Daniel Cabrera, and he’s been described as an affront to all that is good and holy, pitching wise.  Chapman says “In Cuba you knew you could throw a bad pitch and a batter would swing at it . . . in the big leagues, that doesn’t happen very often.” Looks like it didn’t even happen that often for him in Cuba, and that’s pretty damn scary.

The concern: he has all kinds of gas but no secondary pitches.  And you know how that goes. Chapman doesn’t need a quadrophonic Blaupunkt. What he needs is a curve ball. In the show, everyone can hit heat.

For as alluring as a young lefty with 100 m.p.h. heat may be, I can’t feature going big money on guy with his profile. Especially if I’m a big money team like the Yankees or the Red Sox who could just wait for him to figure it out on someone else’s dime and then pay him the big bucks if and when he shows he can pitch rather than throw.

  1. Stultus Magnus - Dec 2, 2009 at 9:23 PM

    As a Yankee fan, I hope the Yanks look elsewhere for pitching. The heater is enticing but he seems unpolished and wild from what I’ve seen. If he’s looking for anything other than a 3-4 million signing bonus, then I say let him find another team.
    Farnsworth can throw 99-100 now and then, and look at him, walks people left and right and as a reliever can’t protect a lead. How’s a starter gonna survive with below average secondary pitches?

  2. Stultus Magnus - Dec 2, 2009 at 9:25 PM

    The Yanks shouldn’t pay him (nor should anybody) 15 million to develop a decent curve in the minors…

  3. JBerardi - Dec 2, 2009 at 10:16 PM

    Guys, he’s a prospect, not an MLB ready pitcher. Yes, there’s major concerns about his control and secondary pitches, but lefties who can hit 100 don’t grow on trees. Take a look at Randy Johnson’s walk numbers in the minor leagues sometime. Yes, there’s a ton of risk involved with signing him, but the reward is potentially limitless. He’s a top-15 prospect in baseball right now, and $10-15 million dollars is probably a realistic price for that kind of asset on the open market.

  4. Stultus Magnus - Dec 2, 2009 at 10:50 PM

    Well, I guess I don’t believe a prospect in the “top 15” bracket should get 10-15 million.

  5. Old Gator - Dec 3, 2009 at 12:12 AM

    Well, now, since it’s the Borg who are sniffing at him like one of the drug beagles at Miami Airport baggage claim, such numbers ought not surprise you. I hear that Elian Gonzalez might want to turn pro soon, too. My guess is that Jeffrey Loria will be waiting for him on the beach off 5th Street with a suitcase full of cash that will dwarf the Borg’s largesse.
    Must have fallen and hit my head. How long was I out?

  6. Cru11 - Dec 3, 2009 at 1:47 AM

    So just because hes a “prospect” and not at MLB level he shouldnt have a secondary pitch? There are hundreds of pitchers at every level out there that are considered prospects and they atleast have one PLUS secondary pitches…maybe two. Id avoid Chapman like I would the plague.

  7. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Dec 3, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    Well, I guess I don’t believe a prospect in the “top 15” bracket should get 10-15 million.

    Depends on how the $10-$15M is being spent. If it’s a Strasberg contract, say 4-5 years for $15M total, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Yanks throw that at him. As mentioned he’ll need a year or two in the minors at least to work on his control/secondary pitchers. However, if it’s $10-$15M [b]per year[/b] than I’d like the Yanks to take a pass. He’s too raw for that kind of money.

  8. ecp - Dec 3, 2009 at 10:45 AM

    I’ve heard a scout or two say that Chapman reminds them of Colt Griffin. That ought to be enough to scare anybody away.
    That said, it’s funny how many blog posts I’ve read from Yankee fans who have him penciled into the major league starting rotation next year. The Red Sox can only hope that’s the case.

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