March 23, 2010
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The most interesting part of watching the Reds vs. Rockies spring training game yesterday was the difference in tone before Aroldis Chapman entered the game and how the tone changed as he struggled after his first inning of work.
The announcers, Thom Brennaman and Michael Brantley, started off by building the anticipation of his appearance as he would relieve Bronson Arroyo in the sixth inning. Chapman came out and dominated in his first inning of work, throwing only eight pitches. The tone of the broadcast was wildly optimistic. They talked about his amazing stuff, about how so many people were nitpicking his supposed flaws, and how they (and the Reds scouts) didn't see those flaws.
Then, the second inning happened. Chapman didn't have his command. He didn't have his velocity. Suddenly, the tone turned from optimism to, well, excuses.
All the reasons why Chapman could be struggling or would possibly struggle this season came out.
The fact that he is only 22-years-old.
The fact that he doesn't know the language or the culture.
The fact that the city of Cincinnati has little, if any, Cuban population. On and on.
As it turned out Chapman was feeling the effects of a muscle strain in his back and should be fine in a couple days. Still, what was said on the air is mostly true. Chapman is only 22-years-old. He will face major adjustments to living in Cincinnati, adjusting to American culture and life on the road.
Can we tell anything from eight and two-thirds innings of spring training work? Not really. We can see that he has some electric stuff, yes, but how will his stuff hold up over the course of 30-plus starts? What happens the first time he gets touched up for five runs or can't find the strike zone? These are questions that we really can't answer yet.
So what to do when it comes to selecting Chapman on draft day or not is the big question for fantasy team owners. The reward seems high based on his big strikeout potential, but the risk of over valuing that potential is certainly there.
In many ways Chapman could be quite comparable to a pitcher like Jonathan Sanchez or Jorge De La Rosa. Both of those pitchers throw hard from the left side, rack up strikeouts, but have been inconsistent with their command for most of their careers.
If we can lump Chapman in the same category based on scouting reports and what little we've seen in spring training as well as the World Baseball Classic, we can then safely say that Chapman is worth a pick somewhere in the 200-plus range or 17th through 20th round for a 12-team mixed league. A pick there would minimize the risk involved.
Personally, I would wait as long as possible and hope he fell to the last couple of rounds.
The bottom line is that Chapman is still very much an unknown commodity. The Reds know they have an electric arm, but how good of a pitcher is he? Just as the announcers changed their tone from one inning to the next yesterday, fantasy owners might be doing the same thing by the end of April.
This isn't the first time the Reds have had a youngster with 100 mph heat, a nasty slider and character questions. When Homer Bailey was 22-years-old he was struggling to find any sort of consistency at the big league level and he was used to the culture.
Will Chapman be any different?
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