An article at Yahoo by Jeff Passan discusses Aroldis Chapman at length as the Cuban pitcher heads into the 2012 season. Ã‚Â It contains plenty about which to be discouraged, such as Chapman’s fastball velocity so far in spring training:
Offsetting those three pluses was the velocity on ChapmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fastball: between 92 mph and 95 mph, a staggering dip from the 105-mph fastball he uncorked against the Padres as a rookie and even a steep decline from the 98 mph he averaged as a reliever last season.
The lower pitch speed may just be a March thing. Ã‚Â Passan relates a more fundamental Chapman negative, namely the organization’s apparent lack of a clear, definitive plan for the pitcher. Ã‚Â The four-letter “J” word rears its head:
The RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ handling of Chapman is beginning to resemble Joba ChamberlainÃ‚Â 2.0 …. to continue to waste an arm like ChapmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in the bullpen without even giving him a fair shot to start reeks of short-sightedness, self-preservation and all of the other things teams do when winning now supersedes all.
But Passan includes some tantalizing words of optimism:
Should Chapman tick his fastball velocity up a couple miles per hour and master the splitter Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a notoriously difficult pitch to command Ã¢â‚¬â€œ his potential as a starter is almost limitless. According to the PITCHf/x data on FanGraphs, no left-handed starter in the major leagues throws a splitter.
and, are you sitting down for this:
As long as heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a starter, Chapman will keep throwing (the splitter) and tinkering with a changeup taught to him by new Reds closer Ryan Madson.
Imagine Chapman throwing Madson’s change-up (a “deadly weapon“) from the left side — or, a harder-throwing Cole Hamels with a Cuban accent.
There is much more worth reading in the Passan article, including a discussion of Chapman’s ongoing personal struggles surrounding his family and defection. Ã‚Â The latest edition of Chapmania has begun. Ã‚Â The Enquirer reportedÃ‚Â Chapman’s expressed interest in starting. Ã‚Â Hal McCoyÃ‚Â interviewedÃ‚Â Dusty Baker about Chapman’s progress and the factors that would go into deciding about Chapman’s role with the club.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll play until the end (of spring training) and make our decision,Ã¢â‚¬Â Baker added. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everybody wants that decision now and I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give it to them. Too much can happen.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Keep this stat in mind: In the first two years of his contract, Aroldis Chapman has thrown a total of 69 innings for the Reds. Ã‚Â That’s about the same numbers of innings pitched by Jordan Smith, who the Reds are paying slightly less than $30 million.