With legend Stephen Strasburg now on the shelf for a year and a half with Tommy John surgery pending, the baseball world turns a keen eye toward Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman will be a setup man for the Reds so that’s not all that exciting, especially when it comes to fantasy baseball. But, a 105 MPH fastball is something worth writing about! Chapman, a lefty, regularly hits tripled digits and is said to have hit 105 last Friday night.
Coming into Spring Training, there was no doubt about Chapman’s arm. What was a concern, however, was his control. No more. Since July 10, Chapman has thrown 66% strikes for Triple-A Louisville. Since being moved to the bullpen, he’s 2.40 with 49 strikeouts in 0 innings pitched. On the year, Chapman is 9-6, 3.57 in 39 games and 13 starts. He has 8 saves and has fanned 125 in 98 2/3 innings. Opponents average .218 against him.
“I think he can handle it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Because if you can handle pitching for food, you can certainly handle pitching here.”
He was referring to Chapman’s background in Cuba, where his ability to throw so hard made him a big-league commodity. The Reds gave him a six-year, $30.25 million deal in January, expecting him to join the rotation at some point during the season.
With more than enough starters, they moved Chapman to the bullpen last month and he excelled. A fastball that was clocked at 101 mph on scouts’ radar guns in spring training seemed to get better. He didn’t allow a hit in his last eight appearances out of the bullpen, dominating hitters who couldn’t catch up with the fastball or handle the slider and changeup that go with it.
Chapman is still pegged to be a starter down the road, but for now, he’ll remain in the bullpen as a set up guy. That makes his fantasy baseball value minimal for 2010, but consider Aroldis Chapman a must start in all keeper fantasy baseball league.