Things are heating up in the signing of 21-year-old Cuban free agent Aroldis Chapman. MLB Trade Rumors had an interesting post about Aroldis Chapman via Buster Olney. (I don’t have ESPN Insider).
In his blog post this morning, ESPN’s Buster Olney notes that evaluators are split on Aroldis Chapman, as some see him as once in a generation talent, while others see extreme risk because of control and makeup concerns. “Where was Randy Johnson when he was that age?” asked one scout, and the answer is in A-ball walking 94 batters in 119.2 innings.
Indeed, Olney makes a good point (despite citing wins)
To review, Johnson made his major league debut at age 24, logged his first season of double-digit win totals at age 26. He led the American League in walks for three consecutive seasons. It wasn’t until he was 29 that Johnson corralled his control issues; in 1993 (the year he threw over the head of John Kruk at the All-Star Game), Johnson struck out 308 and walked 99, and he went on to win five Cy Youngs. At age 21, he was raw, but greatness was possible because of his tool set.
True. But while Johnson was wild at 21, he was also wild at 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 and the discussions for Chapman’s contract is around five years. Teams might not have the patience for how long it would take Chapman to adjust.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Chapman’s BB/9 was 5.6 in the Cuban leagues, which is incredibly unimpressive. Even worse when you go farther, as Clay Davenport does in that article, to adjust for what would happen if he jumped into the majors–a 7.6 BB/9 and a 9.3 K/9. The RJ comparison is pretty decent.
So it’ll probably be a long road to the majors and the team that gets him will have to be decent at developing pitchers.
Ideally you want him to start in a pitcher’s park to encourage him to focus on control–his mistakes will be softened.
The Blue Jays are the closest to getting him with a five-year/$21-23 million deal.
The Blue Jays have a decent record with developing pitchers and have a crop of middle-of-the-rotation pitchers coming up.
The Lansing Lugnuts are the A affiliate and their park is pretty much neutral, but gives up homers at a slightly higher than average rate. Dunedin is the A+ affiliate, and it’s a hitter’s park. And the AA affiliate is the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. New Hampshire has a slight-hitters park, but the Eastern League wasn’t particularly competitive on the offensive side last year. Then the AAA affiliate is Las Vegas, which is a heavy hitter’s park.
Obvious suggestion is to start him in Lansing and when he has his BB/9 under control, move him up to AA and then majors when he’s ready.
The Angels are the other major competitor for Chapman. A affiliate Cedar Rapids is a singles and doubles hitters park, but average-to-soft on homers. A+ affiliate Rancho Cucamonga is a decent pitcher’s park and AA Arkansas is a great pitcher’s park, but maybe a little too friendly. And then AAA Salt Lake is a HUGE hitter’s park, so probably bump him from Cucamonga to Arkansas and then straight to the majors when he’s ready.
Lansing:Midwest League: .256 BA/.329 OBP
Dunedin:Florida League: .252 BA/.322 OBP
New Hampshire:Eastern League: .258 BA/.332 OBP
Cedar Rapids:Midwest League .256 BA/.329 OBP
Cucamonga:California League: .270 BA/.341 OBP
Arkansas: Texas League: .266 BA/.340 OBP
Talent changes hands kinda often in the minors, so take this with a grain of salt, but this only encourages the A-to-AA jump for Toronto. For Anaheim, though, maybe the simple A-A+-AA route–maybe have him start out in A and move to A+ mid-season in his first year–is best so he can face some singles hitters in the California League before facing more patient hitters in the Texas League.
It looks like Anaheim would have an easier time developing him–plus, there’s a good Latino community in both Rancho Cucamonga and Arkansas. After watching “Sugar,” the culture shock and adjustments a player has to make outside of baseball is downright scary and I really hope the best for the youngster. Personally, regardless of who gets him, I’d hire a coach from Cuba just to help Chapman socially and tie him to Aroldis’ hip.