GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- This Aroldis Chapman thing makes no sense. The guy's fastball is a blur. His motion is wonderfully fluent whenever he takes the mound with his lanky frame of 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds. He is left-handed -- and in case you didn't know, baseball folks lose their minds over southpaws who throw hard. Plus, he just turned 22, which means he has years to remain good or even great.
I mean, here is Chapman, supposedly with the gifts to evolve into the next big thing among pitchers, and the New York Yankees didn't get him.
Neither did the Boston Red Sox, the New York Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs or any of those teams on the pricey side of baseball's financial universe. In contrast, the Cincinnati Reds join the traditional bargain hunters (as in cheapskates, either by necessity or by choice) on the other side.
So Chapman went to . . . the Reds?
While the Reds have nine consecutive losing seasons, the Yankees and the Red Sox have five pennants and two world championships during that stretch. Still, two months ago, the Reds convinced Chapman to sign a six-year contract for $30.25 million. Then, during his Cactus League debut on Monday at Goodyear Ballpark, he used the combination of his pitches and his poise to show that he is more than hype.
You know, with the Reds.
"It really does kind of make you wonder if there is some kind or problem here with this kid, because the Yankees, for instance, are a club that would go out and outbid everybody if they felt this guy was going to be a phenom," said George Foster, a blast from Cincinnati's Big Red Machine past. He was in town for the spring game to sign autographs for those visiting at a table beyond the third-base stands.
Consider that Chapman is scheduled to make more than the total rosters of Foster's 1975 and 1976 Reds teams that captured back-to-back world championships with three Hall of Fame players, a Hall of Fame manager and Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader who also should be in Cooperstown.
Foster chuckled, adding, "Before, it was like the Reds didn't have any money, and now, all of a sudden, they've got the money. That's strange. And I also think those other clubs want to win right now. They don't want to put that kind of investment into somebody who is going to be in the minor leagues for a four- or five-year period. They want somebody who can help them win immediately."
The thing is, if you go by Monday, when Chapman kept making Kansas City Royals hitters look silly, the Reds just snookered their peers by grabbing somebody who could be significant right now.
During Chapman's two innings, he watched the first hitter he faced single, and he allowed a walk. He also had two strikeouts.
Here's the main thing: In addition to flashes of goodness with his slider and his changeup, his fastballs really were fast. According to the speed gun of one major-league scout, some of Chapman's 26 pitches reached 97, 98 and 100 mph.
That same scout clocked one at 102 mph.
When it comes to left-handers, Steve Carlton didn't throw that hard, and neither did Sandy Koufax. Some say Herb Score often reached the 100s during the 1950s, which means Chapman could join a category of two.
"I wasn't trying to throw any harder or anything like that," said Chapman, shrugging, who doesn't speak English. His translator was fellow native Cuban Tony Fossas, the Reds' Single-A pitching coach who operates as Chapman's unofficial guardian.
Said Chapman through Fossas, "If I did throw a pitch that fast, it was just one of those things."
Added Reds manager Dusty Baker, also shrugging, "It's hard to tell how fast he's throwing, because he throws so easy. He doesn't put a lot of effort into it, so it's hard to tell how hard he's throwing, but he threw well."
Except for that walk, Chapman also threw under control, which was one of his big question marks. The other involved temperament since he has a reputation for becoming agitated by the slightest thing. He was composed on Monday, and he has been so throughout his stay with the Reds so far.This already is a splendid story.
Chapman pitched for Cuba's national team, and he even was named the top left-handed pitcher for the 2007 Baseball World Cup. But here's the intriguing stuff: Last summer, despite Castro's tight grasp around the team, he slipped away toward freedom when they were playing in the Netherlands. It wasn't without a mighty cost for Chapman, though, since he left behind friends and family members, including a pregnant girlfriend who gave birth to an eight-month-old daughter that he has yet to see.
It's just that Chapman has this dream of pitching in the big leagues. According to Fossas, he is doing everything mentally and physically to make it happen.
"First of all, he's very smart. He's very bright, and he already brought pretty solid mechanics with him," Fossas said. "He's a workaholic, and with the technology that we have here, he's only going to get better. We have a video room, and he had never seen himself pitch in that fashion. He's going to use that to his advantage, and as we've seen throughout camp, the issue isn't control anymore.
"The other thing is, growing up in Cuba under a tough situation, and then going through that defection, hey, that takes a lot of guts. That also takes a lot of a heart leaving your family behind and not knowing what the future is going to bring.
"I think for him, this is a piece of cake."
Not good news for opposing hitters.
Nor for the Yankees and others who let him get away.
Video of Chapman speaking to reporters after the game (from FoxSportsOhio.com):
Last edited by OnBaseMachine; 03-09-2010 at 02:32 AM.
I am ecstatic to have this guy!
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Great article from Joe Poz. A new era in Reds baseball is dawning.
"Baseball is a very, very complex business. It's more of a people business than most businesses." - Bob Castellini
Here's the link to the Kansas City's paper regarding yesterday's game. Apparently their catcher Brayan Pena was who was called to catch Chapman when he was auditioning for clubs.
“In the same way that a baseball season never really begins, it never really ends either.” - Lonnie Wheeler, "Bleachers, A Summer in Wrigley Field"
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You really have to pinch yourself and say "Is this guy really a Red?" It's going to be fun to follow his progress in the spring to see if he goes back to Cincy with the big club. I'm betting that he does.
Reds Fan Since 1971
How's this for a comp for Chapman?
Obviously he doesn't have the curve yet but does the slider.Blue was a southpaw power pitcher. He possessed a breaking curveball that he threw on occasion and an above average change-up, but his signature pitch was a blistering fastball that dialed up to nearly 100 miles per hour. In The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, all-time hits leader Pete Rose stated that Blue 'threw as hard as anyone' he had ever faced, and baseball historian Bill James cited Blue as the hardest-throwing lefty, and the second hardest thrower of his era, to only Nolan Ryan.
Maybe Steve Carlton as another comp.
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print...135&type=storyNot putting the bar high or anything.Steve Carlton went 27-10 with a terrible team one year in there, throwing high fastballs (the slider didn't become his best pitch until two years later). We have quotes about Steve Carlton when he first came up, comparing him to Sandy Koufax-but, since he is Carlton, those kind of quotes don't even make the file for him, because there is so much other stuff. Which is better evidence about the quality of his fastball: 27 wins, 300 strikeouts, or some guy thirty years later talking about what an awesome fastball David Clyde threw that one afternoon?
Last edited by klw; 03-09-2010 at 09:25 AM.
Keith Law filed his report after yesterday here:
You have to be insider to get it, but if you are, enjoy. If not, a brief snippet:
He described the slider as absolutely toxic, with a sharp break and sitting at 87-90, or what a normal left-hander sends plateward for a fastball. He raved in general about the ease of the delivery.There are big-league starters who look like they're playing catch when they pitch, like Livan Hernandez; there are almost no big-league pitchers who look like they're playing catch at 96 or 98 mph. But Chapman does. His arm is loose and quick, and he makes a relatively easy thrower like Steven Strasburg look high-effort by comparison.
In terms of mechanics, Chapman takes an enormous stride towards the plate and pronates his arm reasonably early; the arm path isn't long and there's no violence or other major red flags in the delivery. If he stays healthy, he's a number-one starter, and should be able to come north with the Reds in some role this year if they want him on the big-league roster.