The numbers so far this season are eye-popping: 14 games, 18.1 innings pitched, 6 hits allowed, 32 strikeouts, 5 walks and a 3-0 record with a 0.00 ERA. In a game earlier last week, Aroldis Chapman threw 3 pitches over 100 MPH in one at bat to Rickie Weeks. Weeks, no slouch at the plate, had no chance against Chapman. He struck out, yet another victim of the wonderful left arm courtesy of the Reds‘ fireballer. Whether you have seen it or not, it is worth another look. The question is: when will Cincinnati remove Chapman from the role of setup man to either the closer’s role (I hope not) or a spot in the starting rotation (Yes, Yes, YES)?
My feelings about starting vs relieving are quite clear. You don’t take a guy with the stuff Chapman has and make him a one or two inning pitcher. He should be in the rotation. That being said, I don’t have a problem with gradually bringing him along until he gets acclimated to life in the Major Leagues. And while Sean Marshall has been doing a decent job closing for Cincinnati, inserting Chapman into that role for the remainder of this season could be a game-changer. It is clear he has electric stuff and allowing him to throw 100 MPH heaters and 90 MPH curves in the ninth inning is a dynamic most contending teams would take in a minute. A move like this can put the Reds one step closer to winning the NL Central.
Chapman should be fully adjusted to playing ball in America. 2011 was his first full season in Cincinnati and he issued 41 walks in 50.1 innings pitched. You can see why another he could use half a season more in the bullpen. However, if Cincy can swing a deal for another closer and someone like Mike Leake is still struggling, Chapman needs to be put in the rotation. Think of his value as a starter to that of a left-handed version of Stephen Strasburg. Not only does Strasburg help his team pitching 7 innings every fifth day but he also helps at the box office. Chapman, if and when he becomes a member of the rotation will carry that same type of electricity. Every start becomes an event bringing lots of attention and dollars to Major League Baseball.
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