Can we please come up with a new nickname? It reminds me too much of Newmanium.
Aroldis Champan’s debut was the talk of not just the prospect world, but the entire baseball world as well, and the Reds’ Cuban prodigy did not disappoint.
The outing was as brief as his fastball’s trip to the plate, but it was just as exhilarating. Between the excitement in the stadium and the transparent helplessness of the Brewers’ hitters, Chapman’s debut was everything that both Reds’ fans and baseball fans could have hoped for.
But gushing aside, it’s time to see exactly how Chapman performed. We know he threw hard. We know he dominated Jonathan Lucroy, Craig Counsell and Carlos Gomez, which may say more about the Brewers’ ineptitude this season than anything about Chapman. And Pitch f/X data is as wonderful of a baseball invention as we’ve had in decades, but it alone doesn’t tell the entire story.
Watching Chapman (and part of me wishes he had to work a little harder just so he would have thrown more than 8 pitches), I was looking for one thing and one thing only – was Chapman hitting his target? Throwing strikes is one thing, but throwing the right strikes is another all together. Chapman, more than almost any other pitcher, will be able to get away with missing his target over the plate, simply because of his velocity. But the main difference between big league hitters and minor league hitters is their ability to punish mistakes, no matter how fast they’re coming in. Even at first, Chapman will be able to get away with fastballs over the middle, but once the league gets a book on him (which may not be this year if he’s only relieving), hitters will know if he’s compensating for a lack of control by throwing it down the middle, and will be able to tee off (relatively speaking) even on 105 mph.
But 8 pitches into his major league career, Chapman showed no intention of falling into this trap.* Of his 6 fastballs, Chapman his his catcher’s target with 3 of them (which is plenty when you throw 100+ mph), and two of his misses were triple-digit offerings down the middle to Counsell, which, given Counsell’s complete lack of power, may have actually been the plan. Both of the sliders Chapman threw (which were both to Lucroy, a righty) were exactly where his catcher called for them – down and in – and the final one on which Lucroy swung through was buried at the hitter’s feet, which is exactly where an 0-2 slider should be.
It’s way to early to make any sort of conclusion about Chapman’s command based on our extremely small sample size, but when compared to the scouting report I wrote up on him after his first minor league start, I found some consistencies and some improvements.
In his first minor league start (on April 10 against Toledo in Double-A), Chapman threw 63 fastballs (of 85 pitches) and hit his location with 37 of them (59%). When he missed, he missed up in the zone. This was consistent with his brief outing on Tuesday. His slider, however, was another story, as the two he threw to Lucroy were two of the better sliders I’ve seen him throw. In April, he hit his target with just 5 of 17 pitches (29%), repeatedly missing up and over the plate. These are the pitches that major leaguers will hit. The best sign of Chapman’s improvement was the fact that he kept both sliders down, especially given that his off-speed offerings were the biggest question mark surrounding him when he signed.
Chapman should get multiple opportunities over the next month to put his arsenal on display, and I’ll continue to monitor the movement of his catcher’s mitt as it happens. It may be early, but what’s wrong with getting a little excited over some dominant prospect action?
*Yes, I’m jumping the gun and giving a knee-jerk reaction. Get over it.
Notable September Call-Ups
Some notable prospects that have already promoted thanks to today’s roster expansion are Jenrry Mejia (Mets), Freddie Freeman (Braves), Carlos Carrasco (Indians), and Yonder Alonso (Reds), with reports claiming that Jeremy Jeffress and Mat Gamel (Brewers), J.P. Arencibia (Blue Jays), and Brandon Snyder (Orioles) are also slated to get the call. There are sure to be more on the way, but the day is young.
Arizona Fall League Rosters Announced
As if there wasn’t enough going on today, the rosters for the 2010 Arizona Fall League were announced today as well. You can view the full rosters here, but the most notable prospects include Dustin Ackley (Mariners), Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson (Cubs), Tony Sanchez and Andrew Lambo (Pirates), Koby Clemens (Astros), Adeiny Hechavarria (Blue Jays), Jose Iglesias (Red Sox), Jared Mitchell (White Sox), Grant Green and Michael Taylor (A’s), Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, Eric Hosmer, and Derrick Robinson (Royals), Brett Lawrie (Brewers), Chance Ruffin (Tigers), and Brandon Belt (Giants).