As I mentioned on Sunday, Tuesday was a big day for Aroldis Chapman. He had a workout scheduled in front of an impressive list of many prospective suitors, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that all went well. He writes:
For the dozens of baseball men wondering whether Aroldis Chapman’s official unveiling was worth the trip, the left-hander had an emphatic, 97-mph answer with his final pitch.
Executives and scouts came out of Tuesday’s 30-or-so-pitch bullpen session in Houston raving about the 21-year-old who defected from Cuba in July and will command big dollars on the free-agent market.
Just how much money depends on how Chapman’s new agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, can intensify the bidding. At least 15 teams had officials at the workout, according to two sources who were present, and everyone came away impressed that the 6-foot-4 Chapman sat around 93 mph with his fastball despite not throwing with maximum effort and ramped up with his last throw.
This is a good first step, but I’d advise a word of caution. There was no umpire reported to be behind the plate, no batters in the batters box. He still hasn’t faced any live batters in the states, and the level of competition he faced in the international events was generally considered to be fairly low. This was just a bullpen session, and we see MLB pitchers look great in bullpen warm ups who go out and get clobbered all the time. All that this really tells us that he’s not hurt and that the raw skills are still there, but little else. He may still have much to learn about pitching, holding runners, fielding his position and the issues surrounding his control and make-up in real game situations have yet to be answered. Even if he signed tomorrow, expect him to be sent to the minors and work his way up. But so far, so good. He passed the first test with flying colors.
At the same time, I don’t want to sound like I’m pouring cold water on him. His upside is enormous, he may possess once in a generation type talent. Ed Price from MLB Fanhouse leaves us with this tantalizing quote:
With a high waist, lean body and long arms, Chapman has a unique look, the person said.
“Usually guys throw 10 pitches,” he said, “and you say, ‘He reminds me of …’ But there was none of that.”
In other words, he is a very unique talent. If his body type and/or delivery provides some deception, his high 90′s heat gets even more difficult to square up for opposing hitters. The numbers being thrown around currently (15 mil) may sound high for someone who is roughly at Draft pick status, but they are for 5 year deals. That obviously breaks down to 3 mil per, and the Yanks probably have that in the seat cushions of their corporate limos. Also, draft picks aren’t exposed to a free market, they are forced to negotiate with a single team. Multiple teams bidding gives you a truer sense of what the market will bear for his services. Imagine what Steven Strasburg would have received if all 30 teams could have bid in him.
I fully support a big push to sign him, I consider him as a fine replacement for the lost 08 Gerrit Cole pick. I just think fans should be patient on his ETA, wherever he lands.