Cincinnati Reds Five Hole: Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, or Matt Maloney?

Illya Harrell@illya_1971Analyst IIMarch 6, 2010

There's a smoldering question in Reds' country.  Who will be the No. 5 guy in the rotation? 

Coming back from Goodyear to the Queen City, the first four are set.  We've got Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, and Aaron Harang.  

Sorry traditionalists, but modern ball dictates that teams need a fifth.  Check the rule book. It's just under the "keep all pitch counts under 100" section.

The Reds dilemma is far from a crisis.  In fact, by the time the 2010 season it'd be a smart bet that we will see starts out of each of the three: Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, and Matt Maloney.

For the inquiring mind though, who's it gonna be out of the gate?

And yes, there are other guys in the mix.  Justin Lehr and Travis Wood also deserve a mention.  So there it is—a mention.

Actually, Wood is young and a more than capable lefty.  He may be up at some point this year—just not for the Opening Day parade.

There will be other pity starts (as seen on Friday, March 5) with the likes of Mike Lincoln.  Daryl Thompson will start a game or two in Arizona.  And possibly a few other camp invitees, and kids way too young for the show.

So let's concentrate on the three horses:

Aroldis Chapman

Unless you've been on a baseball fast for the past two months, the 6'4" Cuban southpaw is a member of the Reds.

By all accounts—meaning, like, famous people—the highly touted Chapman has been everything advertised and a box of wine. 

His fastball consistently clocks mid-high 90s, low trips.  Seems like no one besides the scouts who watched him mentioned his wipeout slider that arrives in the mid-to-high 80s.

He throws a nice slow curve that sometimes dips to the upper 70s.

He needs work.  Especially as far as the off-speed stuff is concerned.  It'd be gigantic if roving Reds' coach Mario Soto could teach him to throw the fat change which works so well for Cueto and Edinson Volquez.

Chapman will dominate for many years to come.

Mike Leake

Please, please, pretty, pretty please stop with the Tom Glavine comparisons. 

Glavine shouldn't be allowed to compare himself to himself...well, maybe that's a stretch. 

But to consider Leake comparable to Glavine is like saying a pee-wee league running back reminds you of Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State.  Leake had not thrown a pitch in pro ball until the Arizona Fall League last year. 

Sure, Glavine and Leake both go about there business in the same fashion—at least that's what we Reds' fans hope.

Both are right-handers.

Maddux was smallish in size for a Major League pitcher, as is Leake.  The former was listed at 6'0"...safe to say he was in high heels.  Leake is listed at 5'10".

They both had/have impeccable control.  Neither were/are overpowering.  They both possessed/possess an arsenal of pitches that include a couple which have yet to be properly termed.  And both hid/hide the ball like a magician with his coin.

Seriously people, that's where the comparisons need to stop.

In the Arizona Fall League, Leake led all starting pitchers with a 1.37 ERA (next best a 2.14 spot).  He struck out 15 while walking only three in 19.2 innings pitched.

Leake may be the best-kept secret of the 2009 draft.

Matt Maloney

We got a good look at Maloney last season with the big club.  Like Leake, he can throw just about any pitch besides maybe the palm ball.  Is that still a pitch?

In seven games, he finished 2-4 with a 4.87 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

To say Maloney got rocked last year would be charitable.  The opposition slugged him for nine home runs in 41 innings pitched.

However, in his last three games (and in his final inning of his fourth start) he allowed only one gopher ball over 18 innings.

When Maloney got the September call, and in those final three games, he posted an impressive 2.65 ERA.

At 26, Maloney is the elder statesman of the trio.  He throws strikes—perhaps too many. 

Given the fact he is the only one with more than a taste of professional experience, he is the odds-on favorite for the five spot in the rotation when the season starts.

If he does stink it up, and either Chapman or Leake pitch lights March baseball, that would make the Reds' brass think twice.

So look for Chapman and Leake to start down in Louisville and Maloney to be on the opening day roster.  

And also look for the city of Cincinnati to explode when Aroldis does get the call.


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