A 21-year-old lefty who can throw 102 mph fastballs? Uh, ya. Aroldis Chapman needs to be on your radar.
This week, one of the top young pitchers in the world, 21-year-old Cuban southpaw Aroldis Chapman, defected prior to the 2009 World Port tournament being held in the Netherlands. Along with Stephen Strasburg and Yu Darvish, Chapman and his triple-digit high heat is likely one of the top three young pitching prospects currently not signed to an MLB contract.
Chapman moved to the forefront of the International pitching scene with a stellar peformance in the 2007 Baseball World Cup. He amassed a 2-0 record in defeating both South Korea and Japan, and along the way managed a microscopic 1.20 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 15 IP. He was named to the tournament All-Star team as the top southpaw.
Chapman went 11-4 for Serie Nacional in 2008-2009, striking out 130 in 118 1/3 IP. Unfortunately, he also managed to allow 62 walks and tied for the league lead with 14 wild pitches. Chapman is the holder of the record for the fastest recorded pitch in Cuba at 102 mph. Now that’s some very serious heat. My hunch is that batters won’t be digging in against a flame thrower who has a propensity for wildness like this.
Now what does this mean looking to the immediate future? Once the dust settles, Chapman will undoubtedly be looking at securing free-agency from MLB and then it’s time to let the games begin. The last big-name pitcher to defect from Cuba was back in 2002 and Jose Contreras managed to secure a four-year deal worth $32 million. Just last year, Dayan Viciedo signed a four-year, $10-million deal with the White Sox. Is the sky potentially the limit in this situation?
How many pitchers — especially southpaws — have the potential to hit triple digits on the radar gun? How many of those same pitchers have accomplished this in the past 10 years? Not that this is a guarantee of success, but the combination of both his age and recent history and the fact that MLB teams are enamoured with that huge strikeout potential makes a very large contract a very distinct possibility.
This leads us to the Washington Nationals, potentially the only group upset with the news of the Chapman defection. The shock waves are still rolling through the Nats’ camp as they attempt to secure the services of Strasburg. Do you think Scott Boras isn’t watching the Chapman developments very closely as he looks to gain the maximum leverage possible for his client? The ante has been raised one notch higher with the news of the Chapman defection.
From a Fantasy perspective, now would be the time for those of us playing in dynasty formats to make a move. Although it is highly unlikely we will actually get to see Chapman pitching this year because of the logistics involved, he is a talent worthy of rostering now before the hype continues to drive his price in both the real and Fantasy worlds to the highest of levels.