Cuban defector* and left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman is staging a workout somewhere in Houston today. Chapman left behind his entire family, including a young wife and infant son in Cuba to get a chance to play baseball in the United States. While the location of the workout remains secret, teams are lining up to get a look at the 21-year old, including Ed Wade and Co. While I highly doubt the Astros will sign Chapman, I thought it prudent to write up a short scouting report on him just in case. After all, the workout IS in Houston (mainly because Chapman's agents, the Hendricks brothers, work here).
*Sub-question: If baseball moves to internationalize the draft, what happens with the Cubans? I asked Baseball America's Ben Badler on Twitter and he thought it would be restricted to just certain countries. This article, though, talks about blowing the doors off completely. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I'm open to other opinions.
Here's the first of two YouTube videos I was able to find on Chapman. This one is about 10 minutes, though it really should have been edited down a bit. This one is also about 10 minutes long, but is apparently of an All-Star game in Cuba to select the national team. Chapman is featured in about half of the video. Finally, here's a short video with various pictures of Chapman's delivery.
What can you see?
Let's start with the good:
- Chapman definitely generates the power behind his fastball through his lower body. Watch both his windup and his stretch; each time, he uses that powerful leg kick to generate a ton of power.
- He also has a slight pause at the top of his windup which can definitely be deceiving for hitters.
- Chapman showed off three pitches that I saw, a 12-6 curveball, his fastball and what looked to be a slider. That last one may have been a screwball, but since he only threw one, I couldn't be sure.
- Chapman's lower body seems to land in a good position, with his front foot coming down relatively softly. He falls off towards the third base side pretty heavily, but appears to be in good fielding position once he finishes his pitch.
- He also doesn't appear to rely on the Inverted W when the throws, taking out one injury risk from the picture.
What about the bad?
- His delivery wasn't very repeatable. Chapman threw with three different arm angles, depending on the pitch. His curveball, in fact, came almost directly over the top while his fastball sat at a low 3/4 delivery slot. That big a chance will be noticed at the big league level.
- The other part of his velocity on that fastball came as part of an extended arm whip. As you can see from this post at another fine SBNation blog, Driveline Mechanics, the difference between Randy Johnson and Madison Bumgardner is that pronation of the arm across the body. Chapman's delivery brings his arm even further across his body than Bumgardner's, which is not a good sign.
- I'm also concerned that his elbow flies out in front of the ball in his delivery at some points. I couldn't see this on every pitch, but I did pick up on it four or five times through the two videos. This puts added stress on his arm and could lead to elbow injuries down the road.
All in all, Chapman does look impressive. His fastball looks at fast as you've heard and appears to have some late life on it as well. His curveball is better than I'd anticipated, but its telling that Chapman doesn't throw it more. I'm very concerned about his mechanics, though, and could see him having an arm injury of some sort before he hits 27.
So what teams are looking at Chapman? The Red Sox have reportedly already made him an offer, while the Yankees, Angels, Twins and Athletics are also interested. Brian McTaggart doesn't think the Astros have the money to be a real player for the 22-year old, but who knows? Drayton does like those splashy moves.
If Boston's offer came in at 15.5 million on a major league contract, I'd expect Chapman to sign for somewhere around 20-25 million. Some team is going to see a lefty throwing 100 mph and have visions of Randy Johnson dance in their heads. Unfortunately, with Chapman's mechanics, he likely won't hold up for half as long as The Big Unit.