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.