Aroldis Chapman: big talent, but a bigger risk

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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.

Mike Fiers may not be ready for start of regular season due to back issue

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Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Tigers starter Mike Fiers is dealing with a back issue and may not be ready for the start of the season. Manager Ron Gardenhire characterized the injury as a “stiff back” and added, “Maybe a little bit of a bulging disk or something like that.”

Fiers, 32, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Tigers in December. He has had a forgettable spring, yielding 12 runs on 10 hits and eight walks with seven strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

Fiers had a rotation spot locked up along with Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, and Francisco Liriano. Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris were battling it out for the No. 5 spot. If Fiers opens the regular season on the 10-day disabled list, both could have spots in the rotation.