As part of our preview for the upcoming 2013 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2013 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our second prediction: Aroldis Chapman leads the Major Leagues in saves.
Full disclosure: I had this idea written out a week ago for 2013 bold predictions before Aroldis Chapman stated that he would prefer to be a closer.
Aroldis Chapman throws the baseball 100 mph. That’s what he does best. His fastball is utterly dominant. He could certainly be a great starter. The problem with Chapman is that his secondary pitches – the change up and breaking ball just aren’t up to snuff yet. It’s much easier to step in for one inning and blow by hitters when the previous pitcher was “only” touching 91 or 92 than to consistently turn over a lineup without more pitches that you can get batters out with. After the first time through the lineup, hitters adjust and most guys can catch up to 100 mph heat. That will be a problem and will be more of a problem the more hitters see him and are able to adjust to the speed. There are reports that he is working on a cutter and he does have a pretty good slider, but that’s not quite enough. The fastball/slider combo is classic closer stuff.
I’m not about to argue that Chapman as a great closer would be more valuable than Chapman as a great starter. Starters are much more valuable throwing 200 IP than a closer throwing 70 IP. That isn’t in doubt. If Chapman was clearly relatively ranked as a starter as his is as a closer, then it’s truly a no brainer. Walt Jocketty knows this and that’s why he is adamant about letting the experiment play out. The WAR for great starters is always higher than great closers. For example, Mariano Rivera is the best closer of all-time, but his career WAR is still roughly the same as Andy Pettitte – a great pitcher, but no where near the best ever.
The other kink in the decision is the success that the other prospective 5th starter, Mike Leake, is having during spring. Think about this. Are the Reds better with Chapman closing and Leake in the 5th spot or Chapman at the 5th spot and Leake in middle/long relief. I think the answer is easily with Chapman in the bullpen. There will likely not be much scoring in the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning with Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, and Chapman back there. Back to the days of the Nasty Boys.
Final prediction for Chapman’s season. 76 IP, 1.25 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 47 saves.