Perhaps no prospect outside of Stephen Strasburg commanded as much attention as Aroldis Chapman this off-season. Remember Chapman was signed by the Cincinnati Reds to a whopping six-year $30.25 million deal in January after defecting from Cuba.
The 22-year old Chapman was assigned to Triple-A Louisville out of spring training. He has continued to flash the outstanding stuff that caused the bidding war this winter. His fastball has reached upwards of 100 mph and he is striking out over 10 hitters per nine innings this season (79 Ks in 67.2 innings). The area where he has particularly struggled is his command. His 5.27 walks per nine is high, but all things considered its not a terrible rate. He is still incredibly raw and still getting a feel for his secondary offerings.
Chapman’s ground ball rate, according to minor league splits, is 39.4%. Obviously, with only roughly half a season under his belt the sample size is not that large. Still, I would expect a long, hard throwing lefty like Chapman to generate more grounders. Even a great strikeout pitcher like Randy Johnson generated close to 50% grounders in his career.
Chapman’s youth and inexperience has clearly shown through this year, but not enough to dissuade the Reds about his promising future. For now, I expect Cincinnati to continue letting Chapman go through his growing pains. He will have to improve his control and command to reach his potential as a top of the rotation starter. Otherwise, we could be looking at a future Oliver Perez or lefty reliever
There is a chance the Reds bring him up later this season. As it stands right now Chapman may be best suited for the bullpen His ability to strike hitters out could be utilized out of the pen while he learns to harness his stuff and improve his off-speed pitches. More realistically, the Reds will give him at least a full season under his belt and determine his development path from there.