Aroldis Chapman first burst onto the international scene when he showed his stuff at the WBC and Cuban National Series. Although Chapman didn’t dominate in either competition, scouts saw his ridiculous fastball and impressive breaking ball. Like many top Cuban prospects, Chapman defected and then established residence in Europe so that he could cement his free agent status instead of being subject to the draft. The move paid off as Chapman was signed by the Reds for what is believed to be five years at around $25 million. That solid investment by Cincinnati — they outbid teams like the Angels, Red Sox, and Blue Jays supposedly — seems like it could pay off as early as this year.
Making his Sprint Training debut on Monday, Chapman pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three against the Royals. Even more impressive is the report from USA Today that Chapman touched 102mph on the radar gun. Three of his pitches were clocked at 100mph or higher. While Chapman has some control issues and throwing hard doesn’t guarantee success, it sure makes it easier. Recall the examples of Justin Verlander, Randy Johnson, and Jonathan Broxton — all three have touched triple digits and have had tremendous success in the majors because they can blow hitters away consistently. Guys like Kyle Farnsworth can throw hard and get lit up but having a 100mph fastball is a tool that most people don’t have, thereby making it much easier to succeed.
Initial reports suggests Chapman would spend some time in the majors to hone his skills before going straight to The Show. If he continues to dominate like this, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to hold Arolids back. For all we’re hearing about Stephen Strasburg, Chapman is another pitcher we may have to keep just as close of an eye on.
(bonus video of Chapman’s outing below)