Cincinnati Reds: What's the Best Role for Aroldis Chapman?

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Cincinnati Reds: What's the Best Role for Aroldis Chapman?
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

According to an article written by MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, the Cincinnati Reds are still unsure as to what role Aroldis Chapman will occupy moving forward.

After Ryan Madson suffered a season-ending injury during spring training, Sean Marshall took over the closer's gig.

When Marshall couldn't get the deal done, Chapman took over and was arguably the second-best closer in the National League behind Craig Kimbrel.

In 68 appearances, Chapman managed an 5-5 record with a 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 38 saves while averaging a whopping 15.3 K/9 and 5.33 K/BB.

Chapman struck out 122 batters in just 71.2 innings pitched so I understand why Reds fans are anxious to see the highly touted left-hander to start. However, I don't know that it's in the club's, or Chapman's best interests for him to become a starter.

According to Sheldon, Walt Jocketty has determined that Chapman's role with the team will depend on what the Reds' closing situation is coming into spring training.

Should the Reds re-sign Jonathan Broxton or Ryan Madson, Chapman will likely move to the starting rotation.

I believe that keeping Chapman in his current role is the right course of action for the Reds.

The Reds have one of the steadiest rotations in all of baseball.

Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake combined to make 161 of the team's 162 regular season starts.

 

I'll agree with the fan consensus that Leake's season was far from ideal. However, if Leake is the team's fifth starter then that's hardly a huge area of concern.

Throughout his college career and his first two years as a professional, Leake showed no signs of being the pitcher that he was in 2012.

At Arizona State, Leake had a career record of 40-6 with a 2.93 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 360 strikeouts to 73 walks in 390.1 innings pitched.

In his first two seasons with Cincinnati, Leake managed a 20-13 record with a 4.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 209 strikeouts to 87 walks in 306 innings pitched.

Leake improved between his rookie and sophomore seasons and one bad season shouldn't be enough to just drop all hope in a player (i.e. Homer Bailey).

No one truly knows what Aroldis Chapman can do as a starter. He looked great in spring training this past year pitching to a 2.12 ERA in his five starts.

However, in Cuba, Chapman pitched to a 24-19 record with an ERA of 3.74, a 1.45 WHIP and 365 strikeouts to 203 walks in 327.2 innings pitched.

Now granted, Chapman was only 21 by the time he left Cuba, and 18 when he began playing professionally there, but my point is that we don't know what the team has in Chapman as a closer.

Making Chapman go through spring training, and possibly even a stint with AAA Louisville could mess with his psyche. And trying to stretch him out and further develop his lagging second and third pitches could do even more damage to an already great asset.

Which role should Chapman occupy?

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As a reliever, and particularly a closer, Chapman is as dominant as anybody.

Consider this quote from Sheldon's article:

"One thing the numbers can't quantify entirely was the electricity and intimidation Chapman brought to the ninth inning for Cincinnati. Everyone in Great American Ball Park knew the Reds finally had a dominant closer -- not just the screaming fans on their feet in the stands, but the opposition in the batter's box."

I've been to a ton of Reds games over the years, but I got to experience Chapman closing for the first time in June. It's undeniable how he lights up a crowd and that's a major benefit in late-game situations.

Chapman's intimidation factor may be a hair over-exaggerated but he is surely a dominant force on the mound no matter who he matches up against.

As the old adage says, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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