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Aroldis Chapman: What Should the Cincinnati Reds Do with the Phenom in 2013?

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Aroldis Chapman: What Should the Cincinnati Reds Do with the Phenom in 2013?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After starting the year battling for a rotation spot, Aroldis Chapman found himself pitching as the closer for the Cincinnati Reds in the 2012 MLB playoffs.

He was not as sharp as he was for most of the season, but he was effective nonetheless. Reds fans were spoiled all year watching him pitch, and it was a disappointment if he did not record at least one strikeout in an appearance.

Manager Dusty Baker did a good job of keeping Chapman rested and avoided using him too many times in a row. The southpaw had to be shut down in September because of shoulder fatigue. Some fans may try to say it was from too many appearances, but fatigue will set in when you throw the way he does no matter what your role is.

Cincinnati was in great position at the beginning of September to make a deep postseason run. The offense was scoring runs, Joey Votto was about to return from injury and Chapman had been the most dominant pitcher in the league. Chapman instead had trouble finding the strike zone and blowing hitters away.

His struggles late in the season have fans hoping for a change in role for 2013, so expect there to be some talks during the winter of the future of Chapman. 

The never-ending question will be brought up all winter long in Cincinnati: What should the Reds do with Chapman?

 

The Rotation

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

 

Cincinnati's starters finished the regular season with the fifth-best ERA in the majors and second-most innings pitched, according to MLB.com. The rotation was the biggest reason the team won 97 games in 2012, so there is no need to change anything.

Four of the five starters pitched at least 200 innings and won at least 12 games. Had it not been for some blown saves, the starters would have wound up with even more victories. The Reds used only five starting pitchers the entire season outside of a doubleheader in August. 

The starters stayed healthy despite most of them pitching more innings than they ever had before.

Yes, Mike Leake struggled at times this season. He was the only pitcher who did not pitch 200 innings, win 12 games, have a winning record or have an ERA below 3.75. He is, however, the same guy that led the staff in wins two seasons ago. 

As the No. 5 starter, Leake did a good job. He also has the ability to help himself at the plate. Chapman has never had a plate appearance in the major leagues.

Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos established themselves as stars at the front of the rotation. Bronson Arroyo returned to form this season without having his usual few terrible starts.

Oh, and Homer Bailey was the most dominant pitcher in baseball (outside of one start) from September 1 through the playoffs. He will most likely start next season as the No. 4 starter.

What should the Cincinnati Reds do with Aroldis Chapman in 2013?

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Stephen Strasburg had to be shut down because he pitched too many innings this season. Chapman would be in the same situation next season as he would only be able to pitch 150 to 160 innings in his first full season.

The rotation does not need to be fixed. If Chapman were to become a starter, it would be tough to remove anyone from the rotation. The team could wait until Arroyo is gone to move Chapman into the rotation, but stud prospects will be ready by then.

 

The Bullpen

Cincinnati's relievers finished with the best ERA in baseball despite playing at Great American Ball Park.

With the starters going deep into games, the 2012 NL Central champions were able to shut teams down pretty easily when they had a lead. The combination of Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Chapman was nearly untouchable.

Opposing teams had a hard time getting hits against the Reds. Cincinnati's bullpen held opponents to the lowest batting average in the National League. The bullpen consists of many hard-throwers and veterans. 

The Chapman question will likely be answered by who the team brings back. The Reds could opt to try to bring back Broxton and/or Ryan Madson, who have both been closers for other teams. Marshall also gained some experience closing this season before Chapman took over.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

 

Chapman converted 38 of 43 save opportunities, but he had a shaky June. He blew three saves during the month, which happened to be the first month in which he allowed an earned run.

His fastball-slider combination is the best weapon in baseball. He likes to hit anywhere from 98 to 101 on the radar gun with ease, but his slider is devastating when he uses it.

With 122 strikeouts and only 23 walks, he was dominant. It was tough enough to hit him, and his great control made it tough for any team to put together a rally.

 

Conclusion

Chapman should be the closer in 2013. Broxton will likely try to close for another team, and who knows how Madson will pitch after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Pitching was the team's strength in 2012, so there is absolutely no reason to mess with the key pieces. It is better to have him pitch every three games rather than every five days and have to shut him down in August.

When Chapman came into a game in the ninth inning this season, the atmosphere at Great American Ball Park was wild. Teams have no chance to do anything against him when he is on his game.

His first appearance after missing time was the day the Reds clinched the NL Central. The fans knew the division was won when he came into the game.

The starting rotation did a remarkable job on its way to a division title, and it helps to have a shutdown closer. 

Chapman worked his way into the Cy Young debate until his September struggles, so the Reds are better off keeping a Cy Young candidate in the rotation (Cueto) and in the bullpen. 

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