Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Meet a Prospect: Aroldis Freaking Chapman!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy December 25th, crappy December 25th, Happy New Year, happy whatever! Aroldis Chapman is a New York Yankees player now that the Yankees have sent Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda, Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis to the Cincinnati Reds in a trade yesterday evening. Chapman is now a Yankee at least through the 2016 season, maybe longer if he's suspended through the MLB Domestic Violence Policy, so now is as a good of time as any to meet him. This is Meet a Prospect, the Aroldis freaking Chapman Edition. Can you tell I'm pretty hyped for this trade?

Albertin Aroldis Chapman de la Cruz was born on February 28, 1988 in Holguin, Cuba. Chapman lived in a three-bedroom house with his two sisters, mother and father in Cuba where Aroldis's father, a boxing instructor, taught him how to box. When Chapman turned 15-years old he tried out for a Cuban baseball team where he played first base. While playing first base one of his coaches noticed he had the arm and the mechanics to be a pitcher and in 2003 he began his journey as a pitcher.

Chapman later pitcher for Holguin domestically and internationally for the Cuban National Baseball team until the time he defected from his native country in 2009. During his Cuban career Chapman pitched 327.2 career innings while compiling a 24-19 record and a 3.74 ERA with 365 strikeouts as a starting pitcher. Chapman, in fact, only made 11 relief appearances during his tenure in Cuba and they all came during the 2007 season. In 2006 Chapman was part of the Cuban National Series League while in 2007 he was a part of the Cuban delegation that joined the Pan American Games. In 2009 Chapman used the World Baseball Classic as a way to defect from his country and begin his career in the Major Leagues.

When Chapman defected in 2009 it was his second attempt at defection, Chapman failed once in the spring of 2008. Chapman was forced to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro who gave him a conditional repriece and suspended him for the rest of the National Series season while also keeping him out of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Chapman used the WBC to defect through Rotterdamn, Netherlands with the help of accomplice Gerardo Concepcion. Chapman established residency in Andorra and petitioned MLB for free agent status. MLB obliged and the bidding war for Chapman began.  In January of 2010 the Cincinnati Reds won the bidding war and signed the lefty to a six year deal worth $30.25 million. Chapman also received $16.25 million in bonuses paid annually over the next 11 seasons with an additional bonus if he became eligible for salary arbitration during the 2012 or 2013 seasons, which he did.

Chapman's rookie season began in 2010 where he began his professional career in Triple-A with the Louisville Bats. Chapman made 13 starts with Louisville before the team, due to struggles, moved him to the relief role. Chapman took off as a reliever dropping his ERA from 4.11 to 2.40 and was able to make his Major League debut on August 31, 2010 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Chapman made an immediate impact as his first MLB pitch was thrown at 98 MPH. Just a few weeks later on September 25, 2010 Chapman threw the fastest pitch ever recognized by MLB when he threw a pitch 105.1 MPH to the San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. Chapman had opened the eyes of the league and was on the map.

Chapman continued to get his feet wet in 2011 striking out 71 batters in 50.0 innings solely as a reliever before the Reds decided to introduce him as a starting pitcher for the 2012 season. The Reds suffered preseason injuries with closer Ryan Madson and middle relievers Bill Bray and Nick Masset leading manager Dusty Baker to place Chapman in the setup role for the club. Sean Marshall, the team's closer, struggled early in the season and Chapman was given the reigns to the closer rose in late May 2012. Chapman gave Baker immediate dividends for his decision and was named to his first All-Star Game that season while also winning the MLB Delivery Man of the Month Award for July. Chapman won the award again in August and finished the 2012 season with a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves in 43 chances while striking out 122 batters and walking just 23 batters in 71.2 innings. Chapman, the closer, was now a thing.

Chapman was the closer for good and as a closer he made his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance for the Reds in 2013. Chapman saved another 38 games and recorded another 112 strikeouts in another great season for the Cuban Flame Thrower. It was the 2014 season that Chapman was struck in the head during a spring training game against the Kansas City Royals and Chapman immediately underwent surgery to fix a skull fracture above his left eye while he also received a metal plate in his head to stabilize the fracture. Chapman began the season on the disabled list and did not come off the DL until May 10th of that season.  Chapman recorded his 100th save of his career in 2014 becoming the eight fastest pitcher to do so and finished the season with 36 saves and 106 strikeouts in just 54 appearances.

Chapman started the 2015 season with a new contract worth $8.05 million in arbitration and rewarded the team with yet another All-Star Game appearance. Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the National League striking out the side on 14 pitches, 12 of which were recorded at 100 MPH or faster. Chapman finished his final season in a Reds uniform with 65 appearances and a 1.63 ERA with 33 saves despite constant trade talks and rumors surrounding him in Cincinnati. That trade talk had Chapman traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the trade hit an unexpected snag for both parties.

Chapman was accused of committing domestic violence on October 30, although the news never hit the wire until December 7, a day after the deal to Los Angeles was agreed upon. In the incident Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots. No charges were filed by the police but Major League Baseball is going to investigate the issue and decide whether to suspend him through the league's domestic violence policy. If Chapman is suspended for more than 45 days, not games, he will not have enough service time to hit free agency after the 2016 season and will be a member of the Yankees, presumably, for the 2017 season as well. If he is not suspended or not suspended for more than 45 days he will hit free agency after this season and the Yankees will likely only get a draft pick after offering a qualifying offer to him after the season.

So what does Chapman bring to the Yankees? Chapman is an established closer with seemingly a rubber arm. Many have studied Champan's delivery and no one has reported any violence in his delivery, despite all the movement and deceptiveness in his delivery. Of course there are concerns about what throwing over 100 MPH almost every single pitch will do to his arm for the long term but right now there are no concerns with his left arm. Chapman brings three pitches to the table, a four-seam fastball, a slider and a very occasional changeup. Chapman will bring the Yankees a true fireball and strikeout pitcher. Chapman's average fastball in 2015 was 99.98 MPH and he threw the 62 fastest pitches of the season including his 103.92 MPH pitch that led the league last season. Chapman gets 33% swings and misses with his fastball and 58% with his slider which add up to a very healthy 14.66 K/9 ratio for his career. The Yankees love their strikeout pitchers in the pen and Chapman is a definite strikeout pitcher.

In no way are we here at The Greedy Pinstripes condoning what he did with his girlfriend and in no way are we making it okay because he is a great pitcher. It was a horrible thing he did and it's a thing that he has to face for the rest of his life. Not only will he have to face the league, his girlfriend, his friends, family and teammates for the rest of his life but he'll also have to answer to his maker or a supreme being when it is all said and done. I am excited about this trade, yes, but that doesn't mean I am okay with his actions. He screwed up and he doesn't have a history of domestic violence that I know about so you almost have to give him the benefit of the doubt, let the league and their investigation play out and see this thing to the end before damning him to hell. That's just my opinion and I wanted to make it clear. He helps the Yankees ON THE FIELD, his off the field actions I don't agree with nor do I like... but that's just me talking as a fan. Please understand.
Welcome to the team Aroldis and I hope you prove all your doubters wrong not only on the field but off the field as well. We're rooting for you regardless, welcome to the family.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)