Melissa Seguara at Sports Illustrated has a fascinating in-depth look at Aroldis Chapman, suggesting both his undeniable promise and some less-than-well-reported weaknesses.
Of interest: despite the stories he tells, Chapman’s removal from the 2008 Olympic team may not have been punishment for an earlier, unsuccessful defection attempt. Rather, he probably pitched his way off the team as the result of “extreme wildness” and low confidence during a low-powered tournament in Havana the previous June.
His career walk rate in Cuban play — where the strike zones are bigger and the swingers freer — is 5.37. That’s worse than Daniel Cabrera, and he’s been described as an affront to all that is good and holy, pitching wise. Chapman says “In Cuba you knew you could throw a bad pitch and a batter would swing at it . . . in the big leagues, that doesn’t happen very often.” Looks like it didn’t even happen that often for him in Cuba, and that’s pretty damn scary.
The concern: he has all kinds of gas but no secondary pitches. And you know how that goes. Chapman doesn’t need a quadrophonic Blaupunkt. What he needs is a curve ball. In the show, everyone can hit heat.
For as alluring as a young lefty with 100 m.p.h. heat may be, I can’t feature going big money on guy with his profile. Especially if I’m a big money team like the Yankees or the Red Sox who could just wait for him to figure it out on someone else’s dime and then pay him the big bucks if and when he shows he can pitch rather than throw.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.