Reds have never wavered in their belief that Aroldis Chapman could be a top-of-the-rotation starter
Aroldis Chapman had a terrific season for the Reds, converting 38 of 43 save chances, including 27 in a row at one point. He was consistently clocked at 100 mph, and as Diamondbacks third baseman Chris Johnson said, “I haven’t faced anyone tougher. He’s not just throwing 100. He’s throwing 100 with movement.”
Still, Reds GM Walt Jocketty never lost sight of the reason he made a $30-million commitment to Chapman: He believed then and now that Chapman could be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Chapman ultimately could end up back in the bullpen. That’s always an option. But Chapman is more valuable to the Reds as a potential 200-inning starter than a 68-appearance reliever.
So the Reds will go back to the plan they had for Chapman last spring. He was their best starter last spring, but switched to the bullpen when Ryan Madson got hurt. It’ll be interesting to see how Chapman is able to refine his secondary pitches.
Actually, it’ll be interesting to see how he refines his change-up. He already has a decent slider even if he only threw it about 12 percent of the time last season, according to Fangraphs.com. He could also evolve into a hard-thrower like Max Scherzer, who has ridden a fastball-changeup combination to great success. He, too, has a breaking pitch and does throw it. But if a pitcher can command the strike zone with his fastball and can keep hitters off-balance with a changeup, that’s enough.
If Chapman can make it as a starter, he’d maximize the Reds’ value on that $30-million investment. He was a very good closer, but was often unable to work more than two days in a row. Moving to the rotation would put him on regular rest, thus perhaps preventing the loss of velocity he suffered at times in 2012. Either way, Chapman has proven his value to the Reds.